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)

Le village de Champagne au coucher du soleil, avril

ALFRED SISLEY (1839-1899)
Le village de Champagne au coucher du soleil, avril
signed 'Sisley.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
19 ¾ x 28 7/8 in. (50 x 73.8 cm.)
Painted circa 1885
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris.
Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York.
Erwin Davis, New York (acquired from the above).
Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York (acquired from the above, January 1899).
Frank Hadley Ginn and Cornelia Root Ginn, Cleveland (acquired from the above, March 1926).
The Frank Hadley Ginn and Cornelia Root Ginn Charitable Trust (by descent from the above); sale, Christie's, New York, 8 May 2000, lot 6.
Private collection, Montecito (acquired at the above sale); sale, Sotheby's, London, 3 February 2009, lot 9.
Private collection, Europe; sale, Christie's, New York, 7 November 2012, lot 68.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owners.
F. Daulte, Alfred Sisley: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Lausanne, 1959, no. 565 (illustrated; incorrectly catalogued as dated lower left).
S. Brame and F. Lorenceau, Alfred Sisley: Catalogue critique des peintures et pastels, Paris, 2021, p. 263, no. 687 (illustrated in color; illustrated in color again, p. 479).

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Lot Essay

Throughout the 1880s, Sisley tirelessly explored the intersecting quays and waterways within a few miles of his home, near the confluence of the Seine and Loing. "He seemed unable for long to resist painting works in which there was water to offer its reflections, and river-banks to provide constantly changing activities," Richard Shone has written (Sisley, exh. cat., London, 1992, p. 144). Although he recorded the expanse of the river from nearly every possible angle, he almost always set up his easel at the water's edge; the present canvas is unusual in his oeuvre for its elevated vantage point and panoramic sweep. The scene was painted from a spot at the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau near Les Sablons, a modest hamlet where Sisley lived from 1883 until 1886. Standing on a steep rise above the plain of Veneux, Sisley looked northeast across the Seine toward the village of Champagne. In 1880, shortly after his arrival in the region, Sisley had painted Champagne at closer range, positioning himself directly across the river near the hamlet of By (Brame, nos. 396, 401 and 512). These earlier views, however, are conspicuously social images, depicting washerwomen at the water's edge and the path leading to the embarkation point of the old ferry to Champagne, which had gone out of use in 1872. The present painting, in contrast, is a vision of romantic, almost audacious solitude, the humming life of the quays too far below to discern and the buildings of Champagne a mere stippling in the distance.
Indeed, the main pictorial drama of the painting stems from its tension between near and far, between the rich, variegated surface and the powerful suggestion of recession. The trees on the hillside—some bare still from the winter, others dotted with cottony white blossoms—establish the foreground plane, which counters the depth imparted by the oblique swath of the river. At the same time, both the band of fallen blossoms and the line of the late afternoon shadow slice across the hillside on a diagonal, echoing the principal directional thrust of the composition. The active, heterogeneous brushwork and the juxtaposition of warm and cool hues in the foreground form a sharp contrast with the treatment of the water and sky, both of which are rendered exclusively in matte, horizontal strokes of blue (tinged with the faintest pink at the base of the sky to suggest the approach of dusk). The two banks of the river, on the other hand, are unified by their varied brushwork and even more so by their palette (predominantly russet in tone, with complimentary dashes of blue and green and heavily impastoed touches of white), compressing the apparent distance between near and far.
The first owner of the present painting was Erwin Davis, a prosperous, self-made businessman and one of the pioneering collectors of Impressionism in the United States. In 1880, Davis commissioned the American Impressionist painter J. Alden Weir to act as his agent in Paris and began to assemble a formidable collection that would eventually number over four hundred paintings, predominantly landscapes, by French Romantic, Barbizon, Realist, and Impressionist masters. The first large-scale introduction of Impressionism to American audiences came in 1886, when the Parisian dealer Paul Durand-Ruel mounted a spectacular exhibition of paintings by Sisley and his colleagues at the American Art Association and the National Academy of Design in New York. Along with Louisine Havemeyer and Alexander Cassatt, Davis was one of just three American collectors who loaned paintings to this show, and he was a principal buyer there as well. In 1889, he donated two paintings by Edouard Manet to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, which became the first examples of the artist's work to enter a museum collection. Shortly before his death in 1899, Davis returned a large cache of Impressionist paintings to Paul Durand-Ruel, including seventeen by Claude Monet, fourteen by Camille Pissarro, and sixteen by Sisley, the present painting among them. The present landscape subsequently entered the distinguished collection of Frank Hadley Ginn and Cornelia Root Ginn, active patrons of music and art in Cleveland until their deaths in the late 1930s.

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