In the Autumn of 1883, Sisley settled in Saint-Mammès, a small village close to the confluence of the rivers Seine and Loing, near the edge of the Fontainebleau forest, and about twenty miles southeast of Paris. The beauty of the area is well-chronicled, "It is an essentially Impressionist place with the gentle light of the Ile de France, the soft colours and the constantly changing skies of Northern France. There are green woods and pastures, curving tree-lined banks of rivers, canals, and narrow streams, wide stretches of river where the Loing joins the Seine at Saint-Mammès, old stone houses, churches and bridges" (V. Couldrey, Alfred Sisley: The English Impressionist, Exeter, 1992, p. 68).
Between 1882 and 1885 Sisley executed a series of works from different vantage points along the banks of the river Loing: "Several include the lock on the Saint-Mammès side, through which the innumerable types of river craft passed - the picturesque berrichon, the flat-bottomed margota used for haulage and the predominant péniche, a large multi-purpose barge. A weir was raised and lowered by the lock-keeper, its mechanism housed in two small cone-roofed buildings on either bank" (R. Shone, Sisley, London, 1992, p. 148).
The best pictures of the series are drenched in sunlight with large bright skies. "Objects should be rendered with their own textures and above all they should be bathed in light as they are in nature. This is what we should be striving to achieve. The sky itself is the medium. The sky is not simply a background: its planes give depth (for the sky has planes as well as solid ground), and the shapes of clouds give movement to a picture. What is more beautiful indeed than a summer sky with its wispy clouds idly floating across the blue? What movement and grace! Don't you agree? They are like waves at sea, one is uplifted and carried away" (V. Coudrey, op. cit, p. 71).
Sisley was particularly interested in capturing scenes such as Le Barrage de Saint-Mammès at different times of day and during different seasons. "He sought to express the harmonies that prevail, in all weathers and at every time of 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', Les Cahiers d'Aujourd'hui, Paris, 1923).
As early as 1882, Sisley's sensitivity to the area was noted in the 7 March edition of Paris Journal: "Sisley has masterfully taken possession of the banks and waters of the Seine where the breeze, like a moving mirror, splinters into a thousand pieces the gold of the autumn leaves and scatters the opal reflections of light, fleecy clouds" (E. Chesneau, op. cit.).
Many Saint-Mammès works of 1885 are now housed in major international museums. These include Le Barrage du Loing à Saint-Mammès (D.597) which is housed in the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva, Le Loing à Saint-Mammès (D.609) in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Chantier à Saint-Mammès (D.579) which is in the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio.
To be included in the forthcoming supplement to the Sisley catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by François Daulte.
Sold with a photo-certificate from François Daulte dated Lausanne, le 4 novembre 1982.