ALFRED SISLEY (1839-1899)
ALFRED SISLEY (1839-1899)
ALFRED SISLEY (1839-1899)
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ALFRED SISLEY (1839-1899)
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ALFRED SISLEY (1839-1899)

La route de Veneux

ALFRED SISLEY (1839-1899)
La route de Veneux
signed and dated 'Sisley. 87' (lower left)
oil on canvas
23 ¼ x 31 7/8 in. (59 x 81 cm.)
Painted in 1887
Mme Henri Goldet, Paris.
Jacqueline du Vivier du Fay-Solignac, Paris, by descent from the above, and thence by descent to the present owner.
F. Daulte, Alfred Sisley, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, Lausanne, 1959, no. 654, n.p. (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Alfred Sisley, May - September 1957, no. 57, n.p.
Further details
The Comité Sisley has confirmed the authenticity of this work. This painting will be included in the new edition of the catalogue raisonné of Alfred Sisley by François Daulte, being prepared at the Galerie Brame & Lorenceau by the Comité Sisley.

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Lot Essay

Painted in 1887, Alfred Sisley’s La route de Veneux encapsulates the quiet tranquillity and rural splendour that defines the artist’s oeuvre. Under a bright, clear sky that illuminates every corner of this bucolic vista, a winding country path meanders through the composition, lined by blossoming trees in first leaf, an indication that Sisley likely painted this scene one early spring morning. This vivid, highly evocative combination of vibrant colour and bright brilliant light reflects Sisley’s mastery at distilling the character and distinct identity of the French landscape. Christopher Lloyd has written of these works, ‘These paintings show [Sisley] at the height of his powers. All the experience of the previous decades was blended in these canvases, which amount to the summation of his output: the paint is richly applied with the impasto more pronounced than in previous works, the brushwork more insistently rhythmical, the execution more rapid, and the colours more vibrant’ (‘Alfred Sisley and the Purity of Vision,’ in MA. Stevens, ed., Alfred Sisley, exh. cat., London, 1992, p. 25).

Sisley’s name has become inseparable from the towns of Moret-sur-Loing, Veneux-Nadon (now Veneux-les-Sablons), and Saint-Mammès, the small villages and towns that lined the banks of the Seine and the Loing, flanked on the west by the Forest of Fontainebleau, some forty miles south east of Paris. From 1880, when he left the city’s suburbs and relocated to Veneux-Nadon, a hamlet situated on the left bank of the Loing, Sisley remained captivated by this corner of the Île de France, finding in the quiet meadows, country paths, riverside scenes, and picturesque villages a lifetime of artistic inspiration. He rarely went to Paris, finding the bustling city too far and too expensive, preferring the occasional visits from his city-dwelling friends including Berthe Morisot and Stephane Mallarmé. Enjoying the seclusion and peace of the countryside, Sisley could work exactly as he desired, acquainting himself with every part of the landscape. Delighting in his new surroundings, Sisley’s art was reinvigorated. It was here that the artist, in the words of Gustave Geffroy, ‘had found his country’ (quoted in A. Dumas, ‘Alfred Sisley: The True Impressionist’, in A. Dumas and M. Stevens, eds., Sisley: Poeta del Impresionismo, exh. cat., Madrid, 2002, p. 380).

Depicting, as the title states, a stretch of La Route de Veneux, the present work was painted when Sisley had returned once more to Veneux, having spent the previous years in both Moret and Les Sablons. By this time, he was extremely familiar with the rural terrain, often returning to the same viewpoint, systematically painting en plein air from different vantage points so to capture subtle seasonal changes and atmospheric effects of light and weather. ‘It was in these closing two decades of his life,’ Sylvie Patin has written, ‘that Sisley's concern to provide visual maps of the locations in which he lived or worked is most coherently realised’ (Alfred Sisley, exh. cat., London, 1992, p. 183). Indeed, Sisley had depicted this same winding path a year prior, in a sister painting now housed in the Denver Art Museum (Daulte, no. 634).

La route de Veneux demonstrates Sisley’s deft ability to combine the spontaneity of the Impressionist vision with a refined and carefully constructed compositional structure. After the so-called crisis of Impressionism in 1880, a time of self-doubt and public criticism, many of the leading Impressionists, Monet, Renoir and Pissarro, retreated to their studios. By contrast Sisley remained steadfastly dedicated the essential tenets of Impressionism, remaining in the singular pursuit of capturing en plein air landscape scenes. Yet, he began to look at how he portrayed these views, focusing on his technique and composition.

As a result of this self-reflection, Sisley’s palette became brighter, as he employed more vibrant tones of purple and deep blue, emerald greens and richer natural tones. Additionally, he began applying these colours in longer, more gestural and fluid strokes, as La route de Veneux shows. The undulating, sinuous path is rendered with a series of lyrical, flowing strokes that further guide the eye through the centre of the composition. This horizontal emphasis is perfectly counterbalanced by the row of trees that flanks the road, the blue shadows that intersect the path further heightening this pictorial contrast. Plunging perspectival depth was an effect that Sisley was particularly exploring at this time. Though compositional clarity had always characterised his impressions of the landscape, it came to the fore of his painting in the 1880s, as the present work perfectly demonstrates.

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