There was a painter who was not blindly believed in the currents of thought that had a great impact on nineteenth-century Europe and were famous for his timidness and deeply emotional world. He was one of the founders of the impressionism movement, along with the painter Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro. He was Alfred Sisley.
Alfred Sisley was more commonly referred to as ‘sky enthusiast’. If we look at the paintings he had made, this passion manifests itself very clearly. In his paintings, the sky occupies a very wide place.
“I always start with the sky,” said Alfred Sisley. For Alfred Sisley, the sky is not a decorative background, but the main element as much as the other elements of the painting.
The Life of Pieter Alfred Sisley and Paintings (30 October 1839 – 29 January 1899)
Around Paris, those who know the Fontainebleau forest or the Seine Valley well know that all these places are expressed in the most emotional way in Alfred Sisley’s paintings.
He was the least talked about, as his name was not very involved in big events and was always calm.
But his paintings, each of which is a masterpiece of lyricism in painting, adequately reveal the whole personality of the unpretentious artist.
Actually, Alfred Sisley communicated with his paintings.
The Poet of the Brush
Since almost all of his subjects constitute landscape painting, he is rightly named “poet of the landscape” or “poet of the brush”.
A garden, a field, or a lake that looks like a normal piece of nature to anyone, would become a corner of heaven with the eyes of Alfred Sisley.
Alfred Sisley was born in Paris in 1839 to an English-born family. He used to paint amateurishly for his own pleasure. When he was 17, his family sent him to England, his homeland, to have a profession, but he returned to France without a profession because he could not get used to England.
He did not have a job in England, but he met the works of John Constable and M.W. Turner here. Throughout his career, these two painters had a great influence on Alfred Sisley’s painting. These painters are the starting names of the impressionism movement in England.
When he returned to Paris, he enrolled in the studio of the Swiss painter Gabriel Gleyre, where he met Monet, Frederic Bazile, and Pierre-August Renoir.
After his family lost all of his wealth during the German-French war, painting ceased to be a matter of taste for him but became an indispensable tool for him to earn money.
Only 25 Francs
But this art, which he loved so much, never satisfied him financially. Indeed, among his contemporaries, few people were as stricken as Alfred Sisley.
While Pissarro and Cezanne received 40 francs for their work even in their darkest days, it was not seen that Sisley sold paintings for more than 30 or even 25 francs in his lifetime.
Alfred Sisley began his artistic career by joining Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro. But his excessive modesty, restrained disposition prevented him from adopting pioneering moves like Claude Monet at first.
Indeed, his admiration for Delacroix, Corot, Millet, Rousseau, Courbet and Daubigny shows this.
Despite this quiet personality, Sisley’s name is clearly mentioned among 19th-century painters.
Who Influenced Alfred Sisley? Cafe Guerbois and Alfred Sisley
Between 1868 and 1870, Paris was an idea forum for the new art movement.
Younger generations of artists would gather at the famous Guerbois Cafe, explain their art views, and discuss it.
Although Alfred Sisley attended almost all of these meetings, only the audience remained, but he listened carefully and tried to benefit as much as possible. He did not engage in any argument or conflict with anyone.
Among the famous people of the Cafe Guerbois meetings that shaped the art and intellectual world of the 19th century, there were the following figures other than Sisley.
Physician and philosopher Jean Astruc, novelist Emile Zola, sociologist and art critic Theodore Duret, journalist and novelist Duranty, Fantin-Latour, student of the painter Courbet known for his Algerian landscapes, photographer Nadar, Bazille, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro.
With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, the founders of impressionism dissolved for a while. The painter Bazille, whom we mentioned before, died on the battlefield.
Edouard Manet entered the guard regiment as a corporal.
Edgar Degas was recruited as artillery;
Renoir was appointed to a cavalry unit;
Cezanne took refuge in a provincial town.
Alfred Sisley, on the other hand, took Monet and Pissarro and passed to his homeland England.
However, although Sisley was British, unlike Monet, for some reason he never embraced the air and water of the British island and looked forward to the days when he would quickly reach the lands beyond the English Channel. He returned to Paris with the establishment of the France Third Republic.
Participating in the struggle of the impressionists, including the famous exhibition at the photographer Nadar’s workshop, which opened in 1874 and ended in disgrace, Sisley always chose to stay in the background due to his character.
Alfred Sisley Paintings
The Bridge at Argenteuil
Together with Manet and Renoir, he went to Argenteuil, which is considered the center of impressionism, and worked with Monet there. The open-air style has gained a completely different color here. In a sense, the favorite of the Impressionists, he got his share from this town, which was his temple.
The painting called ‘The Bridge at Argenteuil‘ is a good example of these years.
Meanwhile, Sisley, who went back to England for some works related to his family, also produced various paintings there.
In particular, the painting that portrays ‘The regattas Moseley‘ is considered one of the most interesting of this series.
This work is unlike the artist’s pictures of calm, peaceful nature.
The flags waving in the strong wind, the boats competing in an atmosphere of great competition, and the crowd of people following the races with enthusiasm display an image in contrast to the artistic style that Sisley has formed up to that point.
But it is interesting in that it shows that it is also adept at presenting moving subjects.
Alfred Sisley can be called the romantic master of the impressionists. Although winter landscapes have been handled by many artists for many years, almost none of them have been able to give this impression in a soulful, sincere style as Sisley.
Yet how simple is the matter!
A few trees whose branches are covered with snow, also a field covered with snow, and a vaguely Hunter, compressed into a corner in a tiny spot as a person. But a winter’s day is inside us with all its calm, melancholy, and freezing air. The favorite snow scene is so Louvecienne…
The Flood at Port-Marly
Another interesting aspect of Alfred Sisley is that he portrays natural disasters.
A flood in 1876 made the area a disaster zone. Although there was not much loss of life, the scenery was very sad.
Most of the houses were underwater and life was interrupted. The town and local residents went shopping in boats.
When the rains subsided and the waters began to descend, Sisley came here and made a painting, which is considered one of his most famous works today, from a boat in front of Nicolas Inn in the middle of the town.
Actually, this painting, which should be a mourning painting, has become a sparkling subject, away from all sorts of melancholy, but overflowing with joy, with Sisley’s master brush. The white and blue of the sky are reflected in the water, which is dominated by gray and brown colors, and it is laid in front of us in elegant vibrations.
In September 1880, Alfred Sisley settled in Moret-Sur Loing village, located on the edge of his beloved Fontainebleau Forest.
Until his death, this charming village and the flowing River Loing would be his main subjects.
However, each of these paintings, which were identical in terms of line, had a different mood and a completely different style of expression. He left Moret, the last stop of his life, for only a short time and worked on the coasts of Normandy and Wales. Then he returned to Fontainebleau Forest again.
In the works he gave in these years, some changes are felt compared to the old ones. For example, a little bit, it seems to be shifting towards Mannerism. But he maintained his dexterity in using colors with all his elegance. It can even be said that he won an even more elegant brush.
The pink, lilac, blue and turquoise colors he used in his 1892 painting River Loing are a masterpiece. Although the painting shows a black winter landscape, it has a different feature that is not comparable to the old paintings that the artist dealt with in the same season.
Alfred Sisley never let go of his optimism, although his life was in terrible misery. He did not make his works cheap by pouring this misery into color and line.
He always prioritized emotion and elegance in his works. He had no inclination to show off, he did not try to make the philosophy of art. He used a language that appealed to the heart rather than the mind.
Where did Alfred Sisley Die?
When the artist passed away quietly in his simple house in the village of Moret in 1889, in starvation and misery, he did not yet know that his paintings, each of which were like exquisite poems, would one day be hung in the corners of the world museums and many would make them rich. Indeed, a year after his death, the famous art collector Camondo paid 43,000 francs for The Flood at Port-Marly.
However, Sisley had been sold the same painting by force for 25 francs.
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