Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sisley, Alfred

The Chemin de By through Woods at Roches-Courtaut, St. Martin's Summer
Oil on canvas
60 x 81 cm (23 1/2 x 32")
Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal

Alfred Sisley (1839 – 1899), born and spent most of his life in France but retained British citizenship, was one of the creators of Impressionism. He never deviated into figure painting and, unlike Renoir and Pissarro, never found that Impressionism did not fulfill his artistic needs.

He was exclusively a landscape en plein air (i.e., outdoors) painter, who, in the line of Corot, and with Monet, best sought and succeeded in expressing the most subtle nuances of nature in Impressionist landscapes. He retained a passionate interest in the sky, which nearly always dominates his paintings, and also in the effects of snow, the two interests often combining to create a strangely dramatic effect.

He did not promote himself in the way that some of his fellow Impressionists did, and it was only towards the end of his life, when he was dying of cancer of the throat, that he received something approaching the recognition he deserved.
His death at the very end of the nineteenth assumes a symbolic resonance. It signals the dissolution of the kind of Impressionism to which he had devoted his working life.