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Here you'll find news articles from the world of antiques.

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Here you'll find news articles from the world of antiques.

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Bruce Museum Offers Exhibit of
Alfred Sisley’s Works
by Bob Brooke


The works of the Impressionist painters have drawn lots of attention in the last decade or so. The works of one painter, Alfred Sisley, are seldom seen together. Those of the Impressionist Movement’s premier landscape artist are now on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The Bruce Museum and the Hôtel de Caumont Centre d’Art in Aix-en-Provence, France, have mounted a major exhibition of Sisley’s paintings, the first retrospective in over 20 years of this major Impressionists. The exhibit, “Alfred Sisley: Impressionist Master,” spotlights about 50 of Sisley’s paintings, which have come from private collections and major museums in North America and Europe. The Bruce Museum is now showing the exhibition until May 21 and is the only venue in the United States. The show will then travel to France, where it will be on exhibit from June through October.

Alfred Sisley was born in Paris to affluent British parents. His father, William Sisley, was in the silk business, and his mother Felicia Sell was a classical music connoisseur. At first, Sisley wanted to pursue a career in commerce and traveled to London at age 18. From 1857 to 1859, he visited museums, studying both the Old Masters and the great British landscape painters John Constable and J.M.W. Turner. On his return to Paris in 1861, he decided to become a landscape painter and studied at the Paris École des Beaux-Arts within the atelier of Swiss artist Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre, where he became acquainted with future Impressionists Claude Monet, Frédéric Bazille, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Of all the Impressionist painters, Sisley was the most dedicated to painting landscapes en plein air, or outdoors, in order to realistically capture the transient effects of sunlight. This innovative approach resulted in more broadly painted and colorful paintings than the public was used to.

The jury of the annual Salon, the most important art exhibition in France at the time, rejected the works of Sisley and his friends. And unlike other artists of his time, he painted mostly landscapes and found the Impressionist style fulfilled his needs as an artist. After his father’s death, Sisley lived in poverty and never received the fame or financial rewards from his works during his lifetime.

Originally, Sisley worked in the naturalistic landscape tradition of the Barbizon School, but increasingly adopted a more Impressionistic style, recording specific locations in a sequence of paintings done at different times of the day, weather conditions and seasons.

Until 1880, Sisley lived and worked in the country west of Paris. Then he and his family moved to a small village near Moret-sur-Loing, close to the Forest of Fontainebleau, where the painters of the Barbizon School had worked earlier in the century. Here, the gentle landscapes with their constantly changing atmosphere were the perfect match to his talents. Unlike Monet, he never sought the drama of the rampaging ocean or the brilliantly colored scenery of the Côte d'Azur.

Sisley was first and foremost a painter of light. He knew how to make it an integral part of all of his paintings. Among his important works are a series of paintings of the River Thames, mostly around Hampton Court, executed in 1874, and landscapes depicting places in or near Moret-sur-Loing. The notable paintings of the Seine and its bridges in the former suburbs of Paris are like many of his landscapes, characterized by tranquillity, in pale shades of green, pink, purple, dusty blue and cream. Over the years Sisley's power of expression and color intensity increased.



While his landscapes are generally modest in scale and tonally restrained, the magic with which he was able to capture the effects of the light dancing on water, the brilliance of winter sun on snow and hoar frost, the movement of the wind in trees, the exploration of the depth of a rural scene and the vastness of the skies create poetic works of art.

The style and subject matter of Camille Pissarro and Edouard Manet inspired Sisley. But Monet tends to overshadow him among the Impressionists, even though Sisley’s painting resemble Monet’s in style and subject matter. His work has lots of atmosphere, especially through his impressive skies. Sisley's best-known works are “Street in Moret” and “Sand Heaps,” both owned by the Art Institute of Chicago, and “The Bridge at Moret-sur-Loing,” shown at Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

For more information on this unique show, go to the Bruce Museum’s Web site.

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