Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) was an Anglo-French Impressionist landscape painter, often overlooked by his peers despite serving as a steadfast example of the genre.
Born in Paris to an affluent English family, Sisley dedicated himself full-time to his art. He continued to paint even after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) ruined his family financially, a decision that led to a lifelong struggle with poverty.
In 1857, his father, a successful silk merchant, had sent the 18-year-old Sisley to study business and commerce in London. It was on this seminal trip that he discovered the works of landscape painters J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, and Richard Parkes Bonington.
Abandoning his business studies, Sisley returned to Paris to join the atelier of Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre at l’École des Beaux-Arts. It was there he met contemporaries Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Jean Frédéric Bazille, and joined the founding circle of French Impressionist artists.
In 1868, Sisley participated at the annual Salon exhibition with his landscape titled “Avenue of Chestnut Trees near La Celle Saint-Cloud.” He went on to show more landscapes at the inaugural, radical Impressionist exhibition — and several following editions. Like most of his peers, Sisley was denounced for his loose, “unfinished” execution seen in paintings like “Autumn: Banks of the Seine near Bougival.”
He lived with his family outside of Paris and in London during the 1870s. They moved to Moret-sur-Loing in 1880, near the forest of Fontainebleau, a favored site for painters of the Barbizon School. Sisley’s early work shows influences by these artists.
In 1883, he held a solo exhibition in Paris at Durand-Ruel Gallery, followed by another in New York six years later. He did not receive much critical praise until Georges Rivière's art journal L'Impressioniste praised the artist’s subtlety, taste, and tranquility.
Despite his hardships and late recognition, Sisley remained a dedicated landscape painter and a proponent of outdoor painting. He favored timeless pastoral settings over urban cityscapes and human figures.
The artist died of throat cancer in 1899. Although he lived in Paris for most of his life and applied, unsuccessfully, for French citizenship on multiple occasions, he died a British subject. Some of his most important works are a series of paintings depicting the River Thames and landscapes he executed in Moret-sur-Loing, such as “Street in Moret” and “The Bridge at Moret-sur-Loing.”
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