Raised by his British parents, Alfred Sisley found his ultimate career in Paris, France. He was a landscape painter with an Impressionistic style and thus he painted while outdoor. However, he was one of those artists who only became popular and well-received after death. Art collectors gained interest in his works when his painting, Flood at Port-Marly attained an above-average auction price at the Tavernier sale in 1900.
Alfred Sisley devoted all of his skills and resources to landscape painting although at some point, he tried figure painting but this did not bring him any success either. He was good at expressing the subtle nuances of his natural environment likewise to landscape painters Claude Monet and Corot. He exhibited some of his works at the Parisian Salon where he probably met the likes of Frederic Bazille and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
In some instances, Sisley would paint together with a group of landscapists in a set up called en plein air. They would paint outdoor which helped him produce really colorful and in-depth Impressionistic paintings. Few examples of his important art pieces include Molesly Weir (1874), Rest along the Stream. Edge of the Wood (1878), La Seine au point du jour (1877), and The Terrace at St. Germain – spring (1875). Throughout his professional career stint, he painted the views of Paris, Seine, Moret-sur-Loing, and the River Thames.
Alfred Sisley was born on October 30, 1839 in Paris to a migrant British parents. His father was a successful silk business owner and his mother was a musician. His father was hoping to follow his footsteps and run the family business eventually so he sent him to London to study business. However, Alfred dropped out of the school after four years to pursue his career in painting.
By 1891, he left London for Paris and entered at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He was trained by Swiss painter, Marc Charles Gabriel Gleyre who introduced him to various landscape painters such as Renoir, Monet and Bazille. The group would always invite him to have an outdoor painting session around the city rather in a traditional studio. They wanted to represent the things they see around them realistically, especially when it comes to treating the sunlight or source of light as an additional feature into the paintings.
Using en plein air as an approach to landscape painting was quite groundbreaking at the time, which really established Impressionism as an artistic movement. However, since their landscape paintings were new to the public eye, the juries of the Salon exhibition rejected most of these works. This apparently made Sisley’s life quite difficult as he wanted to become a fully independent artist. Fortunately for the painter though, his family had been very supportive of his career that they would send him a monthly allowance.
Conversely, the financial support was cut off by 1870 and he became poor as a result. He had resorted to selling his earlier works such as the Lane near a Small Town of 1864. In the early years of his career, his works embodied a somber color scheme mostly consisted of sky blue, green and dark brown hues. The inspiration for his early works was the views of Marly and Saint-Cloud.
Alfred Sisley entered a long-term relationship with Eugenie Lesouezec in 1886. They had two children and spent the marital life in Paris. But as Sisley’s father endure a downfall in the business, he was almost unable to support his family financially. He lived in an impoverish state beyond the 1870’s and rarely did he make a good amount of fortune out of selling his paintings.
One of the good things that happened in Sisley’s life during the 1860’s was his blossoming friendship with emerging Parisian artists. He would meet up with them at Café Guerbois and Avenue de Clichy to foment collaborations. And in 1868, his landscape paintings got accepted at the Salon exhibition. However, this visual art display did not earn him any accolades from critics nor financial success. It was even his first and last exhibition during his lifetime.
The 1870’s was pretty harsh on the Sisley family for it was when the Franco-Prussian War broke out. Many businesses were shut down and the art industry struggled. Meanwhile, some loyal patrons still offered support to Sisley and he backed him up in his trips to Britain. In 1874, he began producing a series of landscape paintings depicting the views of Upper Thames. But little did he know that after his death, this series cemented the growing reputation of Impressionism as a sophisticated art form, too.
In 1880, he moved with his family to the west countryside of Paris near Moret-sur-Loing. It is also worth mentioning that the rural village was located near the Fontainebleau forest which used to be the subject inspiration of many students and artists of the Barbizon school. Art historians believe that the forest and its climate conditions were a good match to Sisley’s artistic preferences and creative process.
He preferred the calming effect of the stream, swaying trees and the noise that animals make as compared to the Monet who preferred the drama and angst of the rough seas. In 1887, the British citizen born painter and Eugenie traveled to London again to officially get married before the Cardiff Register Office. As the couple stayed in Penarth, he made himself busy with producing six paintings of the cliffs and sea.
It is also possible that Sisley studied the works of John Constable and William Turner during his visit in Britain. Art critics see traces of these artists’ style in Sisley’s Britain-inspired works. However, Sisley remained to be working under the shadows of Monet, who was a formidable figure of Impressionism at the time. One of the possible reasons why he did not have a booming career in his lifetime was because of his generic idea of Impressionist painting.
After a couple of weeks of staying at Penarth, they moved to Langland Bay near Gower Peninsula and found the place as a great inspiration for another series of landscape paintings. He depicted the views of Rotherslade and Langland Bays throughout the series and after completing it by October, he returned to Paris together with his partner. The said trip to Britain is said to be his last visit to the country.
Alfred Sisley lived in poverty beginning 1870 until the rest of his life. When he applied for his French citizenship, he was rejected though and in his second attempt, he was already suffering from an unknown disease which made him ineligible for approval of his French citizenship application.
In January 29, 1899, Alfred Sisley died at the age of 69 in his residence at Moret-sur-Loing.
Although little is known about Sisley’s formal art training and education, or if he ever had one, he was still considered as one of the best early Impressionist painters. This accolade only came up after his death, though, when experts began to discover his series of paintings executed in both Paris and London. Additionally, he might have been influenced by fairly known Impressionists such as Daubigny and Corot.
The only distinction he had among other artists of his era was his sensitivity and deliberate interest in painting tranquil landscapes. He was always in retreat to a peaceful village and continued working with humility despite his poor financial situation.
The scope of his paintings was exclusive to landscapes throughout his career, so he only had painted very few figures and placed them there for the sake of decorating the art work. Because of this, many people saw his works as reticent and does not embody artistic emotion and personality, which they were accustomed to seeing.
On a lighter note, such peaceful landscapes gave another meaning to positivity, beauty and lightness and it is worth noting that Sisley represented them well in his paintings guided by the principles of Impressionism. With that, it is safe to assume that he was one of the founding painters of the said artistic movement.
After his death, some of his works emerged to the market and became really popular such as Sand Heaps and Street in Moret, both are now in the Art Institute of Chicago. Throughout his career, he was able to produce 100 pastels, 900 oil paintings and plenty of drawings, which was very productive of him considering that he only lived for 59 years. And how rich he could have become if he was able to sell all of them to various art collectors during his lifetime. Unfortunately, a war erupted and people was not ready yet for another artistic trend so these factors have had a drastic impact on his career.