Alfred Sisley (1839 – 1899)

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Painting in a style far subtler than other artists explored so far on this blog, Sisley’s whispering brushwork always seems to me to revel more in the techniques of Impressionism, rather than the movement’s core strides towards realism.

‘The Seine at Daybreak’ – 1877


Faced from afar with a small riverside settlement, Sisley divides the image into three unified wholes: the town with its people, the river and the sky. Whilst the settlement is painted in an endearing quaintness, with a chimney elegantly pluming above with its soot black top, it is the infinities the town is sandwiched between that seem more of interest to the artist. Indeed, the very that it is daybreak, with the town presumably hollowed of activity, allows these elements to come further into play.

Whilst the water elbows its way out of the picture, budding subtly more rich in color as it grows in depth, it’s the sky that really made me fall for the image. A vista that hands far more complicated than the world beneath it. The skill Sisley possesses here in his treatment of the cloud’s fold and crevasses is quite incredible, even the true blue of the sky breaking through is still dappled lightly with heavenly remnants.

‘Fog’ 1874


A woman stoops on her knees working within a garden, she and it seem one and together. A union suggested not only by the muted color scheme, but also the roots that seem to run up her clothing, as well as the tree behind her aching forward in much the same manner. The pallid grey that washes over the image furthers this idea, with the ‘barrier’ of the fence separating portions of nature, becoming itself obscured through the haze.

The wispy undetermined fog lends an abstract quality to the present forms, trees and hedges become spindly nothings that surround the gardener unaware. Amid the entirety of the ghostly grove however, a rogue rose, a daring dot of pink cover that grins out from the closed mouth hues.

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