The present painting depicts the bridge over the Seine at Sèvres, a suburb of Paris about two miles southwest of the Bois de Boulogne, famous for its royal porcelain factory. Sisley moved to Sèvres from neighboring Marly-le-Roi during the summer of 1877 and remained there until early 1880, when he departed the Paris suburbs for the more rural town of Moret-sur-Loing. Although the years at Sèvres brought significant financial hardship for Sisley and his family, they were also a period of unmatched creative success. To quote Christopher Lloyd, "During the years when Sisley lived in Marly-le-Roi and Sèvres, he painted some of the finest pictures in his oeuvre" (Alfred Sisley, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1992, p. 149). The artist was particularly drawn to the arched bridge at Sèvres, which carried the road into Paris. Like many of his fellow Impressionists, including Monet and Caillebotte, Sisley had long sought artistic inspiration in the motif of the bridge, painting examples at Argenteuil and Villeneuve-la-Garenne in 1872, at Hampton Court in England in 1874, and at Saint-Cloud in 1877-1878. At Sèvres, he depicted the bridge from various angles and in a wide range of weather conditions, anticipating the celebrated series of the Pont de Moret that he would undertake in the late 1880s. In the present canvas, the subdued quality of the palette skillfully evokes a damp autumnal day, with hints of sun breaking through the cloud cover. In addition to the bridge and the river, Sisley focuses in Le Pont de Sèvres on the commercial activity that took place on the quay, depicting a large cart being unloaded onto a waiting barge.
The years that Sisley spent at Sèvres were marked by significant stylistic development in the painter's oeuvre. Lloyd has written:
The second half of the 1870s saw a considerable change in Sisley's style. The compositions after 1876 tended to become more complex, with less emphasis on recession and balance. Instead, the overlaying of the various parts of a composition and the creation of an interlocking pattern began to absorb his attention. At the same time, a greater variety enters Sisley's technique. The short soft-edged square brushstrokes of earlier years were replaced by heavily worked, more intricate textures comprising a large range of brushstrokes. The priming on the canvas continued to play a significant role, but towards the end of the decade Sisley was more concerned with building up the layers of paint on the surface. Concomitant with these richly textured surfaces was a greater sophistication in the application of color. The tonal qualities of the paintings of the early 1870s accorded well with Sisley's compositional principles of those years, but now the greater intensity and wider range of color, as in the work of Monet and Renoir, matched the more agitated character of the brushwork. It is fair to describe the years 1875-1879 as transitional. This should not be interpreted in any derogatory sense, as Sisley was adjusting his style and reflecting on the subject matter of his painting in a highly creative way. The results of this adjustment were to be given full expression during the 1880s and 1890s. In a very real sense, Sisley was at a turning point during the years at Marly and Sèvres (ibid., pp. 150-151).