Movement, Style, Type or School of Art:
Date and Place of Birth:
October 30, 1839, Paris
Alfred Sisley's English heritage and Parisian upbringing served him well as one of most typical Impressionist landscape artists. He spent four years in London (1858-1862) studying J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) and John Constable (1776-1837) while he was supposed to be studying business there. And his congenial disposition made him a willing partner for plein air expeditions organized by fellow classmates Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), and Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870).
Sisley's name may not come immediately to mind as one of the leading Impressionists, but his charming landscapes make his work easily identifiable as part of the movement. Sisley's paintings always demonstrated an orthodox approach to early Impressionism that even Monet, Renoir and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) could not adhere to faithfully over time.
According to John Rewald, the father of Impressionist art history, Alfred Sisley's Kentish ancestors operated as smugglers around the English Channel era. His English father, William Sisley, became a wealthy legitimate silk merchant who traded with South America, and his English mother Felicia Sell adored music.
After Sisley made it clear to his parents that he had no intention of becoming a businessman, he entered the reputable studio of the Swiss academic painter Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre (1804-1874) in 1862. Gleyre usually had about thirty to forty students, and required drawing or painting the nude model every day from 8 am to 12 noon and two hours after lunch - except on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. His constant criticism of Monet and Renoir made them fast friends. Alfred Sisley and Frédéric Bazille were open to following their classmates' unconventional directions.
These Gleyre students belonged to a larger group of artists and writers who hung out at the Café Guerbois at 11, Grande rue des Batignolles (later called the Avenue de Clichy). There they met Édouard Manet (1832-1883), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Camille Pissarro, and Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) among so many others who were part of or sympathetic to the Impressionists movement.
In 1866, Sisley met Eugénie [Marie] Lesouezec (1834-1898). They had two children, a son, Pierre (1867–1929) and a daughter, Jeanne (1870–1919). After a 30-year domestic partnership, they were married on August 5, 1897, while staying in Cardiff, Wales. The newlyweds both died within the next year and a half.
During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, Sisley's father lost his fortune. Therefore, selling paintings took on a more urgent need than ever before. For most of the rest of his life, Sisley eked out a meager income and lived, for the most part, in poverty.
Sisley participated in the first, second, third and seventh Impressionist exhibitions. During the 1870s he lived with his family outside of Paris and in London. From 1880, they lived in Moret-sur-Loing, not far from the forest of Fontainebleau - the favorite location for the Barbizon painters. Sisley's earliest work was greatly influenced by these artists and Camille Corot (1796-1875).
In 1883 Durand-Ruel Gallery organized a solo show for Sisley in Paris and in 1889, another solo show was organized in New York. Sisley did not achieve the same critical or financial success of his fellow Impressionists, though a few months after his death, Gustave Geoffroy published a series of appreciative articles.
Sisley remained a British subject all his life. He applied for French citizenship twice and was denied both times.
- Avenue of Chestnut Trees near Lalelle, Sainte-Cloude, 1865
- Square in Argenteuil, Rue de la Chaussée, 1872
- Boulevard Héloise Argenteuil, 1872
- The Bridge at Villeneuve-le-Garenne, 1872
- Footbridge at Argenteuil, 1872
- Path of La Machine, Louveciennes, 1873
- Snow on the Road, Louveciennes, 1874
- The Aqueduct at Marly, 1874
- Snow at Marly-le-Roi, 1875
- The Flood at Port-Marly, 1876
- The Rising Path, 1875
- The Hill Path, Ville d’Avray, 1879
- Small Meadow in Spring, 1881
- The Church at Moret in the Morning Sun, 1893
- The Church at Moret, Rainy Morning, 1893
- The Church at Moret, after the Rain, 1894
Date and Place of Death:
January 29, 1899, Moret-sur-Loing. Sisley died of throat cancer.
Rewald, John. History of Impressionism.
New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1973 4th edition.
Dayez, Anne; et. al. Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition
New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1974.