Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)
1870: Alfred Sisley exhibited impressionists paintings at the Salon !
In 1870 Alfred Sisley exhibited two paintings at the Paris Salon. This is four years before the first ‘impressionist’ exposition. This is when many painters are stil busy developing an impressionistic painting style. And in this early year Sisley exhibits two beautiful paintings in a fully impressionistic painting style, with bright vibrant colours ! And so the Salon, known as a conservative institute exhibiting mostly paintings with historical and mythological themes, exhibits two impressionists paintings four years before the Impressionists started their own independent expositions. Quite progressive you might say.
In 1866 Alfred Sisley had debuted at the Salon with two paintings. In 1868 he exhibited one painting. In 1867 and 1869 he was rejected. In 1867 he signed a petition for a Salon des Refusés (R166,p261). In 1872 and 1873 he did not submit. See account and his pictures and the Salon.
Alfred Sisley in Paris, 1839 – 1871:
Alfred Sisley was born 1839/10/30 in Paris, 19, rue des Trois Bornes. His parents were English and Alfred would keep the English nationality all of his life, because an attempt to become naturalized failed in 1897. He had an older brother called Henry. His father, William, was a successful businessman. From 1857 – 59 Alfred studied business in England, but he was more interested in the English landscape painters. Back in Paris, after an invitation of Bazille, he joined the studio of Gleyre in 1860. There he met Monet and Renoir. He quit at the studio of Gleyre in 1862. (Other sources mentioned he joined in 1862 and quit 1864; R38).
From 1861 – 1868 Sisley would regularly painted in the surroundings of the forest of Fontainebleau with Renoir and Jules le Coeur. In the summer of 1866 before there was a trip planned to Rouen and Le Havre with Renoir and Bazille, but it is unclear if it really happened. Sure is that in August 1866 he was in Berck with Renoir and Jules le Coeur. In the summer of 1867 Sisley stayed in Honfleur at Saint-Siméon (with Bazille, Monet, Guillemet (R16,p336;R166,p261;R38). Sisley made some paintings in La Celle-Saint-Cloud (6km west of Paris) in 1865 and 1867. According to Cahn Sisley did not join the meetings at Café Guerbois, though he lived close by from 1866-71 in the Batignolles-district. Still others sources mention he regularly did (R53,p16;R38;R15,p278;R3). In the summer of 1869 he visited Monet in Bougival (R53,p19).
In 1866 Alfred Sisley started a relationship with Marie-Adélaïde-Eugénie Lescouezec (born: 1834/10/17). He would marry her officially 1897/08/05 (Other sources mention this was the 18th; Gale mentions this was in 1868, R53,p140). Their son Pierre was born 1867/06/17; their daughter Jeanne-Adèle 1869/01/29 (Gale mentions she was born in 1866, R53,p140) and their son Jacques 1871/11/26 (he would die a few months later, 1872/02/29 (R38).
Alfred Sisley lived at several different addresses in Paris: 1865/07: 31, Avenue de Neuilly with Renoir (now Avenue de la Grande Armee; close to the Arc de Triomphe). 1866/05: 15, Rue Moncey, Batignolles (close to Gare Saint-Lazarre). 1867/06/17: 27, Cité des Fleurs, the address of Eugénie Lescouezec. 1868/05: 9, Rue de la Paix, Batignolles (renamed in: Rue de la Condamine; note nowadays Rue de la Paix lies 30 minutes walking away), together with (or in the same building as) Bazille and Sisley. 1869/01/29 + 1870/05: again 27, Cité des Fleurs. (Blondel mentions Sisley lived in 1869 at the Avenue de Clichy (R38). 1871/11/26: 41, Rue Nollet.
It is not clear what Sisley did during the Franco-Prussian war.
His father would die late 1870 and left Alfred without financial support. Until then Alfred didn’t have to worry about selling paintings. But why did he share a studio with Renoir and later also Bazille if he was wealthy enough to have his own? Some sources say he had a studio in Bougival (already since 1868/69), where many of his early works were destroyed. Fact is, that there are almost no works known of Sisley made before 1872 (R129).
In his early works the influence of Corot and Daubigny is clear (R15,p278;R16).
Alfred Sisley in Voisins-Louveciennes, 1870ca-1875ca:
According to Cahn Alfred Sisley moved probably at the end of 1871 to 2, Rue de la Princesse in Voisins-Louveciennes, but he was no where officially registered. This address is mentioned in the catalogue of the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition (R2,p123) But the site that Stevens indicates on a map is not number 2 but 5 (R166,p80), which is confirmed by a memorial plate visible on Google maps (iR9). Oter sources state that Sisley went earlier to Voisins (iR20;iR9) and lived nearby 18, Route de Versailles (R53,p70+21+19) or in the Rue de Voisins (R38). Some sources also state that Sisley lived in 1870 for sometime in Bougival and that many of his paintings were destroyed during the Franco-Prusian war (iR20;R166,p262). Sisley would stay in Voisins-Louveciennes until early 1875 (or the end of 1874).
In 1872 Sisley visited Monet in Argenteuil and painted there. In the Spring and Summer Sisley painted in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, a little north of Argenteuil. He would visit Monet again 1874/10 (R53,p141). In Louveciennes Sisley worked with Monet (in 1872) and with Renoir (in 1873) (R53,p141).
In 1872 the art-dealer Durand-Ruel started to buy paintings of Sisley. In 1872 and 73 this was more than 50% of the paintings he produced. Because of financial problems Durand-Ruel didn’t buy one work from 1876-79. He also exhibited his works at the ‘Exhibition of the Society of French Artists’ from 1872-74. In the summer of 1874 Sisley made a trip to London, together with the baritone and art-collector Fauré. Other early collectors were Hoschedé, Dubourg, Arosa, Chesnau, Latouche and the art-dealers Legrand and Père Martin.
Sisley used short soft-edged brushstrokes with thin paint resulting in an even surface (R166,p151).
Alfred Sisley in Marly-le-Roi, 1875-1878:
Early 1875 Sisley moved to 2, Avenue de l’Abreuvoir in Marly-le-Roy, looking out over the watering place, formerly part of the waterworks providing the Château de Marly with water. (In a municipal archive his name is written as ‘Ciseley’). Stevens mentions Sisley moved to Marly in the winter of 1874/75 (R166,p102).
1875/03/24 together with Renoir, Monet and Morisot, Sisley sold at a Drouot auction 21 paintings for an average of only 127 francs. In 1877/05/28 he did so again with Caillebotte, Pissarro and Renoir and sold 11 paintings for an average of 126 francs. Sisley would also exhibit at regional exhibitions, such as in Pau from 1877-79. Introduced by Guillaumin in 1877 Sisley became to join the Wednesday lunches of Eugène Murer in the back room of his restaurant, 95, Boulevard Voltaire, Paris. Murer (officially Meunier), who also was an art-collector, bought many paintings of Sisley.
Sisley began to build up thicker layers of paint on the surface, creating an interlocking pattern, using a large range of brushstrokes. He often laid much emphasize on the composition. He painted the same scenes from different viewpoints and in different seasons and weather conditions. (R166,p149-151). Mallarmé (1876/09/30) writes about him: ‘Sisley captures the fleeting moments of the day, watches a passing cloud and seems to paint it in flight. On his canvas, the breeze makes the leaves tremble and rustle. He likes to paint especially in spring and … autumn.’ (R166,p266).
Alfred Sisley only joined the ‘impressionist’ expositions 4 times from 1874-82:
Sisley was a co-founder of the ‘Société Anonyme…‘ and also present at it’s liquidation. He would join only 4 of the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions. It seems that he never was very active in organising them.
Sisley showed 5+1hc=6 paintings at the first ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874 >.
Sisley showed 8+2hc=10 paintings at the second ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1876> . E.F. (1876/04/21) reviews in ‘Moniteur des arts’: ‘Less unequal (than Monet) is Mr. Sisley, who cannot be denied of excellent qualities.’ (R90I,p83). G. d’Olby (1876/04/10) reviews: ‘Mr. Sysley (sic) whose paintings, at the previous exhibition of the Boulevard des Italiens, had made a scandal by their strangeness, seems to want to humanize himself and to see nature with an eye of a less debatable sincerity ‘ (R90I,p100; Note: it is unclear to which previous exhibition he refers.) Emile Zola (1876/04/29) reviews: ‘Mr. Sisley is a very talented landscapist, who has more balanced means than Mr. Pissarro.’ (R2,p186;R90I,p109) Silvestre (1876/04/02) reviews: ‘Mr. Sisley is more varied and complete.’ (than Pissarro; R90I,p109).
Sisley showed 17+1hc=18 paintings at the third ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1877 > .
Sisley showed 27 paintings at the seventh ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1882> . Sallanches (1882/03/03) comments Sisley paints with river soil (‘barbotine’) and his clouds are unlikely (R90I,p412). Hennequin (1882/03/11) reviews that in most of his paintings ‘the countryside will appear light blue’ (R90I,p393). Huysmans (1883) calls his eye ‘less deliriant’ than Pissarro and Monet; sees the influence of Daubigny and Piette, and describes that his works ‘also have a pretty melancholic smile and often even a great charm of beauty’ (R90I,p398). Armand Silvestre (1882/03/11) calls Sisley less bold than Monet (R90I,p413).
See here for an account (references, translations, info, discussion, locations on Google-maps)
Alfred Sisley, Sèvres, 1878-80:
October 1878 Sisley moved to Sèvres, 12km west of Paris. His address was 7, Avenue de Bellevue, but this is only found in close by Boulogne-Billancourt, about 10km west of Paris. (Other sources mention he did so in March, others 1877 (R38) and others 1875 (R7,p153)). In April 1879 Sisley moved to 164, Grand-Rue, Sèvres. Sisley and his wife had contacts with Félix and Marie Bracquemond, who lived at the villa Brancas, 3bis, Rue de Brancas, Sèvres. Marie Bracquemond made a painting of Sisley and his wife dining with them (see below) and also of a trip on a steamer (R166,p6).
Duret, an art-critic, included Sisley in his pamphlet ‘Les Peintres Impressionnistes’ as one of the just 5 Impressionists. Duret also supported Sisley. After the 3th ‘impressionist’ exposition Sisley submitted again to the Salon. Sisley said in a letter to Duret (1879/03/14) ‘we still have a long way to go before we can afford to disregard the prestige gained from official exhibitions’ (R166,p267; R7,p149). Sisley was rejected in 1879 and 1880. Gale writes he also was rejected in 1878 (R53,p141). In 1879 Sisley had an exhibition with Monet and Pissarro in the offices of the newspaper ‘L’Evenement’.
Alfred Sisley in Moret-sur-Loing and surroundings, 1880-1899:
In 1880 (or 1879, R38;R7,p153) Sisley moves to Veneux-Nadon, 88, Route de By (now: (88) Rue Victor Hugo, Veneux-les-Sablons). 1882/09 Sisley had moved to Moret-sur-Loing. 1883/10 Sisley had moved to (Veneux-)Les Sablons. 1886: Sisley had moved to 32, route Nationale, Veneux-Nadon (now: 35, Avenue de Fontainebleau), opposite the train station. 1889/11: Sisley moved to 19, Rue Montmartre, Moret-sur-Loing. Gale states that Sisley moved to another house in Moret in 1894 (R53,p142).
Sisley made many pictures of the bridge of Moret-sur-Loing over the years. In 1893-94 he made a series of 14 works (12 in CR) of the church of Moret-sur-Loing, 25, Rue de N , (actual photo of the Notre-Dame de la Nativité). In 1897 Sisley visited England and Wales from July – September (Duret mentions from May till October; R7,p153). He officially married Eugénie Leszouezec 1897/08/05 in Cardiff. She died 1898/10/08. Alfred Sisley himself died shortly afterwards 1899/01/29 in Moret. He was buried 1899/02/01 at the cemetery in Moret. Many attended his funeral, namely Monet, Renoir, Cazin and Tavernier. Monet afterwards supported Sisley’s children and organised a sale at George Petite (1899/05/01) in which many artists participated and in which works of Sisley left in his studio were sold. Shortly after his death he becomes recognized as a great painter. Sisley produced about 960 oil paintings, 100 pastels and many drawings. Sisley was a true landscapist; he rarely painted portraits, interieurs or still lives.
The art-dealer Durand-Ruel bought from 1880/04/23 till 1886/02/08 216 paintings directly from Sisley. He sold only 40 of them. In the same period Sisley produced about 282 works. They, just as Monet, Pissarro and Renoir had a gentleman’s agreement, that Sisley would deliver his paintings and Durand-Ruel would provide financial support. In letter of 1885/12/10 Monet wrote to tell Durand-Ruel that he himself, Pissarro and Sisley wished to cancel the agreement. The relationship between Durand-Ruel and Sisley would never be restored. (R166,p44-50).
Durand-Ruel exhibited paintings of Sisley on several foreign exhibitions, the most note worthy is the ‘works in oil and pastel by the Impressionists of Paris’ held in New York in 1886, where 15 paintings of Sisley were shown. And also in France, some regional exhibitions, but merely in Paris, namely in 1883 a solo exhibition in Paris (which was no success). Early 1881 Sisley exhibited in the offices of ‘La Vie Moderne’, a newspaper founded by George Charpentier. 1887/05/08: Sisley exhibited 15 paintings at ‘the exposition internationale de peinture et de Sculpture’ at the George Petite gallery. 1887 onwards the galerie Boussod et Valadon began to buy Sisleys paintings and held a solo exhibition in 1893/03/13. 1890-98 onwards Sisley exhibited with the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris, see account. 1897/02/05: large solo exhibition with 151 works at the Galerie of George Petite.
Sisley as an artist:
Sisley mostly rendered the bright side of nature and depicted friendly and intimate motives (R7,p135/6). He was criticised for his use of violet tones (R7,p139). Sisley never was succesfull in his sales and in his worst days he had to sell his smaller paintings for 25 Francs (R7,p143).
Was Sisley an Impressionist?
Sisley painted mostly ‘en-plein-air’ and tried to render the influence of the time of day, the seasons and weather conditions on the landscapes he painted. In this sense he was one of the most consistent Impressionists. Duret did right to include him as 1 of the 5 Impressionists (R142;R7).
But he only participated actively in the first three ‘impressionist’ expositions. When he lived in Moret-sur-Loing and surroundings he didn’t have many contacts with the other Impressionists. In that sense he was not a central figure within the ‘impressionist’ art-movement.
Alfred Sisley, sources:
My main source is the 1992 catalogue edited by Mary Anne Stevens (=R166), especially the biography of Isabelle Cahn (p259-281). Additionally I used the books on Alfred Sisley of Ian Gale (=R53) and Blondel (=R38=aR1). Other main sources are Rewald (1873=R1), Moffett (1986=R2), Walther (2013=R3,p697), Roe (2006=R4), Denvir (1993=R5;1992=R8), Duret (1923=R7), Kostenevich (2012=R15), Spiess (1992=R16,p332-6), Belloli / Brettel (1990=R17), the Salon database (iR1=aR16) and the additional references (=aRx). For other general references (=R) see. My main sources (for the pictures) from the internet are the-athenaeum (=iR2=aR7), Wikimedia (iR6=aR11), WikiArt (=iR7=aR9), ArtNet (=iR13=aR10) and Mutualart (=iR11). For other references to internet sites (=iR) see. For other additional references (=aR) see below. See links for practical hints and abbreviations and for the subscription of the paintings.
Sisley, additional References =aR:
- Blondel, Francois, Sisley, VisiMuZ, 2016, e-book,
including: Théodore Duret: Les Peintres impressionnistes: Claude Monet, Sisley, C. Pissarro, Renoir, B. Morisot, 1878; latest revised version in 1922 (=TD) and Gustave Geffroy, 1927 (GG) = R38
(for an extensive free preview see)
- fr.wikipedia.org (=iR4)
- en.wikipedia.org (=iR3)
- ibiblio.org (=iR27)
- the-athenaeum.org (about Les Sablons)
- the-athenaeum.org / Sisley (=iR2; my most used source; >700 works !)
- YouTube / Sisley (>400 works)
- WikiArt.org / Sisley (=iR7; >450 works)
- artnet.com / Sisley (=iR13; >750 works; dysfunctional loading; also drawings and pastels; with auction info)
- wikimedia.org / Sisley (=iR6; also drawings and pastels; several divisions)
- Google Art Project / Sisley (=iR8; option of moving in on details)
- artcyclopedia.com / Sisley (=iR38; with many links to musea)
- alfredsisley.org (796 works in alphabetical order; irritating pop-ups;iR156)
- museumsyndicate.com / Sisley (=iR28; 378 works)
- Salon database of Musée d’Orsay (=iR1)
- “Alfred Sisley.” In Database of Modern Exhibitions (DoME). European Paintings and Drawings 1905-1915. Last modified Dec 17, 2020. http://exhibitions.univie.ac.at/person/ulan/500027485 =iR261; overview of contributions of Sisley in exhibitions and auctions from 1905-1915 (60 entries)