Alfred Sisley, 1839-1899, was a famous French Impressionist painter. He was the only one of the Impressionists who painted landscapes solely and was particularly good at snowy landscapes. His works are elegant and soft in color, and he was one of the founders of Impressionism, along with Monet. His main representative works are The St. Martin Canal, Snow at Louveciennes, Fontainbleau River, Snow in Rufushen, and Flood at Port-Marly.
Alfred Sisley was born in Paris and grew up in a privileged family environment, with his parents being successful businessmen from England. At 18, Sisley followed his father's wish to study business in London for four years and worked in a commercial firm. However, he liked to study literature and painting and studied Shakespeare, William Turner, and John Constable. Although his father initially opposed Sisley's career in art, he later gave Sisley a lot of support. In 1862, Sisley studied at the Paris École des Beaux-Arts and made friends with famous painters such as Monet, Renoir, and Bazille. The four like-minded young painters often traveled to the outskirts of Paris to sketch outdoors in the Fontainebleau forest. In 1866, Sisley's work was selected for the Salon. In the same year, he began a relationship with Marie Lescouezec and had a son and a daughter.
Because he painted landscapes outdoors rather than in the studio, his paintings more realistically captured the fleeting effects of sunlight. This approach, which was innovative at the time, led to paintings that were more colorful and extensive than the public was used to seeing. As a result, Sisley and his friends initially had few opportunities to show or sell their work. Their work was usually rejected by the jury of the annual Salon, France's most important art exhibition. So the following year, in 1867, a petition was signed by Monet and others to boycott the Academies.
Until 1870, Sisley enjoyed the generous support of his father and was able to paint without worrying about food or clothing, but the good times soon came to an end when Sisley's family business collapsed due to the Franco-Prussian War (July 1870 - May 1871).
In order to reduce the cost of living, Sisley moved around a lot, and in 1879, his father died. In 1880, Sisley settled in Morlaix, away from his Impressionist friends, and in 1897, he went to England once more, where he eventually married his partner. In 1898, his wife died of tongue cancer, and he also suffered from the disease. In January 1899, Sisley died of throat cancer at age 60 after entrusting the child to his friend Monet. The works he left behind were put up for auction by Monet for 145,000 francs and received acclaim from critics he had never received during his lifetime.
Sisley was obsessed with landscape painting. He loved to depict the lightness and agility of nature and had a strong interest in painting light and weather on the skies, rivers, canals, fields of idyllic northern France, and the busy village in which he lived. Sisley's own sensitivity also gave his paintings a strange sense of finesse. Although the brushstrokes were sometimes rough, the atmosphere was meticulously and accurately recorded so the viewer could feel the emotions flowing slowly in the paintings. He had a good relationship with other Impressionists, especially Monet. Monet's rough brushstrokes and obsession with light also greatly influenced Sisley. In Sisley's later work, his use of paint was so heavy that the surfaces of his paintings appeared "rugged."
The mid-1870s was the most successful period of Alfred Sisley's works. During this period, he optimistically believed that the innovative path of Impressionism was correct, so he continued to create without hesitation and enthusiasm. In addition to bright colors and ever-changing light effects, his works in this period are characterized by solid lines and façades. In these works, the serene and far-reaching images are dotted with serene and wandering pedestrians, with a leisurely atmosphere. Pizarro's style was close to Sisley's during this period, but Pizarro's painting style was simpler and more rugged, similar to Millet's style.
Snow is one of Sisley's favorite themes of expression. By depicting snow scenes, Sisley can use different paints to express the variations of light and shadow on the snow surface. The snow falling in winter and the snow-covered earth often appear sluggish and desolate under Sisley's brush but with a sense of openness. As could be seen from his works, Sisley's oil paintings are solid, steady, not too exaggerated, and almost close to the actual scene. Some of the paintings are in the same style as Monet. But there are also paintings of their own style. His works give a glimpse of the customs of that era.
The Forgotten Impressionist
Although Sisley was born into a wealthy merchant family, he spent most of his life in poverty. Despite his central position in the Impressionist movement, unlike the other Impressionists, he was neither successful nor widely recognized by society, and he spent almost recluse-like loneliness in his later years. Due to his very cautious character, Sisley's friends and fellow painters such as Monet and Renoir kept a certain distance from him. Sisley tried several times to obtain French citizenship but failed.