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Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Sold by the Art Institute of Chicago
Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)

La fenaison--Après-midi de juin

Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)
La fenaison--Après-midi de juin
signed and dated 'Sisley 87' (lower right)
oil on canvas
21¾ x 29 in. (55.3 x 73.5 cm.)
Painted in 1887
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York.
Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York (acquired from the above, 15 March 1892).
Mr. and Mrs. Chauncey B. Borland, Chicago (acquired from the above).
Bequest from the above to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1963.
The Art Institute Annual Report, Chicago, 1964, p. 19.
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Sale room notice
Please note the Comité Alfred Sisley will include this painting in the new edition of the Alfred Sisley catalogue raisonné by François Daulte, currently being prepared at Galerie Brame et Lorenceau.

Please note the amended title:
La fenaison--Après-midi de juin

Lot Essay

The Comité Alfred Sisley will include this painting in the new edition of the Alfred Sisley catalogue raisonné by François Daulte, currently being prepared at Galerie Brame et Lorenceau.

During the first fifteen years of his career as a painter, Sisley lived and worked in a succession of towns west of Paris in the lush valley of the Seine, including Bougival, Louveciennes, Marly-le-Roi, and Sèvres. In January 1880, a time of dire financial straits for many of the Impressionists, Sisley left the Paris suburbs for the more rural region near the confluence of the Seine and Loing, about seventy-five kilometers southeast of the capital. He settled initially at Veneux-Nadon on the left bank of the Loing, in a house just a few minutes' walk from the railway station. In the fall of 1882, he moved about three miles southeast, to the medieval town of Moret-sur-Loing; he stayed there, however, for only a year before relocating to the hamlet of Les Sablons, on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau immediately adjacent to Veneux-Nadon. He explained in a letter to Paul Durand-Ruel dated August 1883, "I have decided to leave Moret at the earliest possible opportunity, as it's not very good for my heart... However, I'm not going very far: to Les Sablons, a quarter of an hour away, but with better air" (quoted in R. Shone, Sisley, London, 1992, p. 142). In 1889, Sisley returned to Moret, which would remain his home--and almost the exclusive subject of his art--until his death a decade later.

During the years that he lived at Veneux-Nadon and Les Sablons, Sisley's principal subject was the intersecting quays and waterways within a few miles of his home. He first focused his artistic investigations on the Seine as it flows past Saint-Mammès, a bustling river-port that occupies the right angle formed by the banks of the Seine and the Loing. In 1882, he shifted his attention to the Loing, creating a considerable body of work exploring the landscape between the mouth of the river and the viaduct carrying the Paris-Lyons railway line. Richard Shone has noted, "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" (ibid., p. 144). Sisley had experimented during the later 1870s with the creation of small sequences of paintings, depicting the same subject from different viewpoints and under changing conditions, and this nascent serial procedure became more systematic and pronounced following his move to Veneux-Nadon. He recorded the sweep of the Seine and the Loing from every possible angle, often returning to the exact same spot over a period of weeks or months and painting sequences of two, three, or four canvases with just the slightest shift in viewpoint. Sylvie Patin has written, "It was in these closing two decades of his life that Sisley's concern to provide visual maps of the locations in which he lived or worked is most coherently realized" (Alfred Sisley, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1992, p. 183).

Painted in 1887, the present canvas is unusual in Sisley's work from this period for its elevated vantage point and panoramic sweep. Rather than setting up his easel at the water's edge, as he so often did, Sisley has selected a spot in a grassy field on higher ground, looking down toward the river. The edge of the meadow--the boundary between near and far--is delineated by a line of low shrubs and, at the far right, a cluster of tall trees. The latter are cropped by the upper edge of the canvas, emphasizing their proximity to the viewer. A single figure stands in the foreground, framed by an opening in the vegetation; his costume echoes the brilliant blue of the distant hills and the high summer sky. The middle ground of the composition, beyond the meadow's edge, is structured in a series of horizontal bands: a low grassy plain, the narrow blue ribbon of the river, the gentle slope of the hills beyond. The upper two-thirds of the composition are given over entirely to the bright cerulean sky, scumbled with thick, white clouds. The various sections of the landscape are analyzed through carefully differentiated zones of brushwork: large, vigorous strokes for the swaying grasses in the foreground, for instance, versus a more uniform, delicate touch for the plain beyond.

The scene was most likely painted from a spot at the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau near Les Sablons, looking either east toward the Loing or north toward the Seine. In the early 1880s, while he was living at Veneux-Nadon, Sisley had explored the meadows near the hamlet of By, on the left bank of the Seine at the bend just west of Saint-Mammès (fig. 1). Following his move to Les Sablons in 1883, he seems to have favored the meadows further to the south and closer to his new home. In a canvas dated 1885, for instance, Sisley positioned his easel on a steep rise above the plain of Veneux, looking northeast toward the confluence of the Seine and Loing, with the village of Champagne in the distance (Daulte, no. 565; fig. 2; for a related view from the previous year, see Daulte, no. 540). Shone has written about such works, "The paintings reveal in a more tangible way an increasing solitariness. In the previous decade, at Marly and Louveciennes, there is a continual sense of humming life beyond the edge of the canvas... But in many paintings made at Les Sablons, the note is one of withdrawn simplicity, meditative and undramatic. This is country life... in which the only 'events' are a turn in the road or a fallen tree, a local woman on a path or a man standing in a field--the only reason for his presence being the patch of blue provided by his smock against the sunlit earth" (op. cit., p. 142).

(fig. 1) Alfred Sisley, Les petits prés au printemps, circa 1880. Tate Gallery, London.
Barcode: 28975007

(fig. 2) Alfred Sisley, Le Village de Champagne au coucher du soleil, avril, 1885. Sold, Christie's, New York, 8 May 2000, lot 6.
Barcode: 28975069

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