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In the autumn of 1883, Alfred Sisley settled in Saint-Mammès, a village bordering both the Forest of Fountainebleau and the junction of the Seine and the Canal du Loing. While his contemporaries often ventured far from home in search of exotic landscapes, Sisley spent 1885 and 1886 exploring his favorite subjects, the nearby river and canal banks. The view across the water offered in the present work is extraordinary in the range of colors and varieties of spring foliage visible on the near bank: Sisley creates a subtly luscious landscape reflecting the light of the setting sun.
The composition of the present work reiterates Sisley's individual approach to painterly surfaces and, in particular, his belief in the prominence of light, which functions for him as both a formal element and a fantastic phenomenon: "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 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 . . . They are like the waves at sea, one is uplifted and carried away" (V. Coudrey, Alfred Sisley: The English Impressionist, Exeter, 1992, p. 68).