In May 1873 the Salon had refused the pictures which Sisley had submitted to the selection committee. Undiscouraged, he exhibited six paintings with the Societé Anonyme (the first Impressionist exhibition) the following spring. As history recounts, the exhibition was met with some derision, and - encouraged by Durand-Ruel and his great friend Jean-Baptiste Faure, the opera singer and collector - he left for London where he spent the greater part of the summer painting English landscapes.
It was in England that Sisley's plein-airism matured - Kenneth Clark wrote it was 'a perfect moment of Impressionism'. Here he executed paintings probably unmatched for their 'complete naturalism and truth to a visual impression, with all its implications of light and tone' (K. Clark, Landscape into Art, 1949, p. 100-1).
On returning to France in the autumn, Sisley continued his efforts to capture extraordinary seasonal light effects but this time it was the winter light which interested him. Amongst Sisley's greatest works are those which depict heavy snow or, even more startling, hoarfrost on a bright winter morning. Here, in Gelée blanche, Sisley is at his best, capturing one of nature's most fleeting moments with his deft touch. He creates a remarkable light effect and depicts the frost across the landscape with crisp touches of white, purple and pale blue.
Sisley's pictures of late 1874 and 1875 are also subject to the strictest pictorial organisation. Here Sisley incorporates an almost relentless array of horizontals and diagonals to create different planes and textures. As a result, the composition becomes dense and complex. However, it is painted with such a mature ease, and with such a startling light effect, that rather than being over-complex the composition is full of harmony and music.
The present painting was purchased by Abbé Gaugain in the 1890s and has been on loan to the Kunsthaus in Zurich since 1967.