November 22, 2021 3 min read

1.Snow at Louveciennes

In a letter to a friend Sisley wrote, "I have just finished a large canvas of snow at Louveciennes, which I think successful for the way in which the ivy and tree trunks are painted." In this painting, as in many by Impressionists, the subject is simple: it's just one ordinary day in the life of an ordinary person. But even though it's just an image of some snow on some trees, everything about it ­ its colors, shapes, and patterns ­ has been made new. But how? How can you paint snow that isn't white? And how can you use color to make something look three-dimensional when you don't even know where the surface is? The answers are different for every picture. This is what makes art so endlessly fascinating. 

2.The Flood at Port-Marly

The Flood at Port Marly is a painting by Alfred Sisley. Painted in 1872, it depicts the flooding of the River Seine at Port-Marly on 30 May 1872. The painting was submitted to the Paris Salon of 1873 and received critical acclaim. It is exhibited at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, France. The artist had sketched the scene during the event, but he felt he needed to visit the site once more to complete his work. He made a study of the trees in the foreground, which was followed by two more preparatory works for The Flood at Port Marly. The painting depicts a moment when villagers are being ferried across the river in flat boats. There are four people in one boat and three people in another boat, both being pulled by a horse with its head down. Across the river, two men are standing by a tree with one man climbing into a tree above them. A third man can be seen climbing into another tree in the background on the right side of the painting.

3.The regattas Moseley

The regattas Moseley was a painting by Alfred Sisley, created in 1875. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1876, and won a bronze medal. In the painting, a regatta is taking place on the River Thames in London. The painting sold for £3.4 million in 2010, making it one of the most expensive paintings ever sold by a British artist. The painting depicts a typical scene of leisurely boating and rowing on the Thames in summer: boats and rowers are visible along the Thames and further up, and there is a steamboat and a barge further downstream. The sky is cloudy but bright; there are people watching from the shore to both sides, and two boys swimming between boats. On the left bank of the river can be seen houses with their laundry hanging out to dry.

4.Under the bridge at Hampton Court

The most famous of Sisley's paintings is Under the Bridge at Hampton Court, which seems to be a dreamy piece of impressionism, the sort of painting you could imagine someone doing while smoking a joint. But in fact it was painted from memory, from a photograph taken during a vacation when he'd been unable to paint. In fact, many of his most famous paintings were painted from memory rather than from life. He would make a sketch from life, and then spend days or weeks working out the details from his memory.

5.Heron with Spread Wings

Painting is a young person's game. All the old masters were under forty when they painted their most famous works, except for Fra Angelico, who was an inveterate copyist and never had a big original idea of his own. In fact the only great painter who was not a self-taught amateur was Heron with Spread Wings , a Greek from Alexandria who worked in Rome in the second century AD . He followed the painter Apelles as court painter to Marcus Aurelius. Unfortunately he died when he was only thirty-eight years old, so we have no way of knowing whether he would have stayed great if he had lived longer. All this is just a long-winded way of saying that Alfred Sisley was good because he started young. If you look at his earliest paintings, like this one, there's already something special about them. None of the academic fussiness that characterized his French contemporaries. No need to look at other paintings to get an idea of what it means to be an artist; looking at nature is enough. Just enough technique to get the essentials; not too much clutter or fuss or borrowed styles. The results are remarkably graceful and direct.
Geoffrey CONCAS
Geoffrey CONCAS