Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)
Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)
ALFRED SISLEY (1839-1899)
1 More
Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)
4 More
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Cox Collection: The Story of Impressionism
ALFRED SISLEY (1839-1899)

La Seine à Argenteuil

ALFRED SISLEY (1839-1899)
La Seine à Argenteuil
signed and dated 'Sisley 72.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
19 ½ x 28 ½ in. (49.5 x 72.3 cm.)
Painted in 1872
M. Picq-Véron, Ermont-Eaubonne.
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 25 June 1892).
Oskar Schmitz, Dresden (acquired from the above, 15 February 1900).
Sir Frank Guy Clavering Fison, Ipswich (acquired from the estate of the above, 9 December 1936).
Arthur Tooth & Sons, Ltd., London (acquired from the above, 31 March 1953).
Sam Salz, New York (acquired from the above, 31 March 1953).
Edwin Vogel, New York.
Mr. and Mrs. Richard J. Bernhard, New York (by 1958).
Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 5 November 1973).
Modarco S.A., Geneva (acquired from the above, October 1974).
Anon. sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., London, 30 June 1981, lot 10.
Alan Bond, Perth (by 1985).
Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York (acquired from the above, February 1990).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 14 June 1990.
K. Scheffler, "Die Sammlung Oskar Schmitz in Dresden" in Kunst und Künstler, 1921, p. 186.
F. Daulte, Alfred Sisley: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Lausanne, 1959, no. 29 (illustrated).
F. Daulte, Sisley: Paysages, Lausanne, 1961, p. 22 (illustrated in color, pl. 6).
C. Virch, "The Annual Summer Loan Exhibition" in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Summer 1967, vol. 26, no. 1, p. 34 (illustrated).
J. Rewald, The History of Impressionism, New York, 1973, p. 291 (illustrated in color).
F. Daulte, Alfred Sisley, Milan, 1974, p. 21 (illustrated in color).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1974, vol. I, p. 61, note 425.
R. Cogniat, Sisley, Vaduz, 1992, p. 8 (illustrated in color).
F. Daulte, Sisley: Les Saisons, Paris, 1992, p. 21, no. 9 (illustrated in color).
R. Shone, Sisley, London, 1992, p. 227, no. 162 (illustrated).
MA. Stevens, ed., Alfred Sisley, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1992, p. 108.
C. Hindlip, An Auctioneer's Lot: Triumphs and Disasters at Christie's, London, 2016, p. 123 (illustrated in color, p. 124).
S. Brame and F. Lorenceau, Alfred Sisley: Catalogue critique des peintures et des pastels, Paris, 2021, pp. 50 and 411, no. 31 (illustrated in color, pp. 50 and 411).
Kunsthaus Zürich, Sammlung Oscar Schmitz, January-February 1932, p. 7, no. 38.
Paris, Wildenstein et Cie., La collection Oscar Schmitz: Chefs-d'oeuvre de la peinture française du XIXe siècle, 1936, p. 122, no. 56 (illustrated, p. 123; titled La Seine à Moret).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Honderd Jaar Fransche Kunst, July-September 1938, p. 121, no. 225 (titled La Seine, près de Moret).
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Summer Loan Exhibition, 1958, p. 12, no. 129; July-September 1960, p. 10, no. 114; 1962, p. 9, no. 86; 1963, p. 7, no. 72; 1966, p. 15, no. 166 and 1967, p. 9, no. 95 (titled The Seine at Moret).
New York, Wildenstein & Co. Inc., Loan Exhibition: Sisley, For the Benefit of The Free Children's Concerts of The American Symphony Orchestra, October-December 1966, no. 6 (illustrated in color on the cover).
New York, Wildenstein & Co. Inc., One Hundred Years of Impressionism: A Tribute to Durand-Ruel, for the Benefit of the New York University Art Collection, April-May 1970, no. 11 (illustrated).
Shinjuku, Isetan Museum of Art; Fukuoka, Art Museum and Nara Prefectural Museum, Retrospective Alfred Sisley, March-June 1985, p. 159, no. 4 (illustrated in color).
Canberra, Australian National Gallery; Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales; Brisbane, Queensland Art Gallery; Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria and Perth, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Irises and Five Masterpieces, June-September 1989 (illustrated in color).
London, Thomas Gibson Fine Art, Summer Exhibition: 19th and 20th Century Masters, May-July 1990, p. 8 (illustrated in color, p. 9).
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Lot Essay

Alfred Sisley’s depictions of the rural French countryside occupy an important position in the early development of Impressionism. At the beginning of the 1870s, Sisley, along with Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Camille Pissarro, was drawn to the small riverside towns and villages of the Île-de-France, finding a wealth of inspiration in the meeting of open, unspoiled nature, and increasingly cultivated and inhabited land. Like his friend, Monet, Sisley was particularly drawn to the Seine as a subject for these breakthrough landscapes, painting scenes in and around the picturesque riverside suburbs of Argenteuil, Bougival, Saint Denis and Villeneuve-la-Garenne.
Painted in 1872, a decisive year during which Sisley’s Impressionist style fully emerged, La Seine à Argenteuil is filled with the quiet rural charm and delicacy that defines the artist’s work from this pivotal moment. With long, loose brushstrokes Sisley has captured the shimmering reflections of the water, mirroring the gentle light of the expansive sky above. So dedicated to capturing this ephemeral effect, Sisley ensured his signature and date are also reflected in the water. A freshness of palette characterizes this painting, the soft green of the riverbank and foliage working in perfect accord with the blues of the water and luminous white tones of the sails. As John Rewald described, “In [Sisley’s paintings of this time], notably several done at Argenteuil, he reverts to softer color schemes, rich in silvery grays, but these are handled with such subtleness that any danger of monotony is avoided; instead a gentle and new lyricism pervades his work. Sisley’s paintings now radiate assurance, an eagerness for discovery, and the enjoyment of a newly won freedom” (The History of Impressionism, London, 1973, p. 290).
In the spring of 1872, Sisley visited Monet at his new home in Argenteuil. At this time, this bustling fast-growing suburb, situated on the banks of the Seine just eleven kilometers, or a short fifteen minute train ride from Paris, had come to serve as a key center for the development of Impressionism. Together with Monet and Sisley, Renoir also paid numerous visits, while Edouard Manet and Gustave Caillebotte had homes nearby. It was among these small suburban towns that this group of radical artists—soon to become known as the Impressionists—experimented with new formal techniques to depict the world around them. Working en plein air, they used bright, often unmixed color applied directly to the canvas with broken and varied brushstrokes, focusing particularly on the depiction of the atmosphere of the landscape, capturing the fleeting and transient effects of light. These years witnessed the flowering of Impressionism as an artistic movement, resulting in the first group Impressionist exhibition of 1874, of which Sisley was a key contributor. As Paul Hayes Tucker has written, “Sisley, Renoir, Manet, and Caillebotte, painting in and around Argenteuil, created some of the most novel canvases of their careers. Combined with Monet’s achievements, their paintings constitute one of the most remarkable bodies of work in the history of art…” (The Impressionists at Argenteuil, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2000, p. 14).
In Argenteuil, Monet and Sisley often worked side by side, picturing similar scenes, including the picturesque streets of the town, and, like the present work, the wide expanse of the Seine. In La Seine à Argenteuil, Sisley has captured the broad reach of the river and the verdant green bank of Petit Gennevilliers, which stood on the other side of the river to Argenteuil, with its plethora of sailing boats, skiffs, jetties, and holiday homes—Caillebotte’s family owned one such villa—lining the embankment. The partially submerged tree with its delicate foliage serves as a repoussoir to the scene, drawing the viewer’s eye inwards, towards the sailing boat that is caught in a sudden gust of wind, and then down along the bank as it disappears round a bend into the distance. Marrying a traditional compositional structure with an innovative formal handling, this painting encapsulates the early Impressionist desire to establish a new form of landscape painting, one that depicted nature with a novel form of naturalism and spontaneity.
Like Monet, Sisley was drawn to the river, yet his depictions of this waterway differed from his Impressionist friend. While Monet captured the spectacle of modern life that played out upon the Seine—the sailboats and bourgeois day-trippers, regattas, as well as the newly built highway bridge that crossed the river—Sisley immersed himself in the everyday aspects of the landscape itself. Rather than showing the river as a center for suburban leisure pursuits, he captured the expansive skies, the lush riverbanks and foliage, and the shimmering reflections of the water, capturing at times local inhabitants as they made their way through the countryside. “More than Monet,” Robert Herbert wrote, “Sisley painted scenes of artisanal and industrial work along the canals and rivers near Paris: barges at anchor, the loading or unloading of produce, boats under repair, men dredging sand. Although he occasionally painted pleasure boats, he avoided the symbolic juxtaposition of industry and pleasure that marked Monet’s pictures. He was drawn principally to the ordinary preoccupations of local people and the boatmen along the river” (Impressionism: Art, Leisure and Parisian Society, New Haven and London, 1988, p. 226).
As a result, Sisley’s landscapes become lessons in capturing nature itself, an artistic aim that would underpin the artist’s work for the rest of his career. As one critic wrote in 1897, “Having learnt very early to master the sublime book of Nature, Sisley immediately excelled in translating the mysterious ambience of the atmosphere, the shimmering ripples of running water…and above all the shifting immensity of great skies” (quoted in MA. Stevens, ed., exh. cat., op. cit., 1992, p. 104).

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