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Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)
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Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)

Le Loing à Moret

Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)
Le Loing à Moret
signed and dated 'Sisley.86' (lower right)
oil on canvas
21 3/8 x 29 in. (54.4 x 73.5 cm.)
Painted in 1886
Ernest May, Paris.
Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, by whom acquired from the above.
Private collection, France, by whom acquired from the above on 21 January 1935, and thence by descent; sale, Sotheby's, London, 28 June 1999, lot 13.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, New York, 5 November 2002, lot 21.
Acquired at the above sale by the previous owner.
F. Daulte, Alfred Sisley: catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Lausanne, 1959, no. 638 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Alfred Sisley, May - June 1917, no. 28.
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Lot Essay

During the second half of the 1880s, Sisley explored through painting in series landscape at different times of the day and seasons, one of his favourite subjects being the town of Moret, as viewed from different vantage points along the river Loing. 'The fame of Moret rested not so much on what was found inside the town but on the view it presented from across the Loing. Old flour and tanning mills clustered along the bridge; the river, scattered with tiny islands, seemed more like a moat protecting the houses' terraced gardens that, on either side the sturdy Porte de Bourgogne, in turn defended the pinnacled tower of the church. Add to this the tree-lined walks along the river, the continuous sound of water from the weir and the great wheels of the mills, the houseboats and fisherman, and there was, as every guide-book exclaimed, 'a captivating picture', a sight 'worthy of the brush' (R. Shone, Sisley, New York, 1992, p. 159).

Painted on a magnificent summer afternoon, the present work is a superb exploration of the relationship between land, water and sky. The town itself is depicted at some distance to the left, on the opposite bank to which Sisley has taken his vantage point, successfully achieving a sense of depth and space. Discernable are the Provencher watermill, the church, and the twelfth-century town gateway, the Porte du Bourgogne. But the architectural elements of the painting give way to the bank on the right dominated by a proud row of poplars, their sun-gilt crowns massed against and almost cloudless vivid blue sky. Town, sky and lush greenery are all reflected in the calm surface of Le Loing, a celebration of vivid colour and pure and intense light. Capturing the changing colour and light in the landscape was one of Sisley's principal occupations with the Moret paintings. As the critic Gustave Geffroy wrote in 1923, Sisley 'sought to express the harmonies that prevail, in all weathers and at every time of the day between foliage, water and sky, and he succeeded... He loved river banks; the fringes of woodland; towns and villages glimpsed through the trees; old buildings swamped in greenery; winter morning sunlight, summer afternoons' (G. Geffroy, 'Sisley', in Les Cahiers d'Aujourd'hui, Paris, 1923).

The first owner of this painting was Ernest May, the financier and collector and principal figure in Edgar Degas Portraits à la Bourse (L. 499; Musée d'Orsay, Paris). The painting was then owned by the celebrated Paris art dealer Bernheim-Jeune who sold it to a private French collector in 1935, whose family retained the painting for over sixty years.

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