Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), The most purist of the impressionists

The name “ Moret-sur-Loing ” is inseparable with that of Alfred Sisley. He was an impressionist painter from the outset of the movement. From an English family in Paris, he lived in Veneux-Nadon (now Veneux-Les Sablons) and Moret-sur-Loing for about two decades.

He began exploring and painting the local area in his early years. In 1863, Sisley and friends he met at the studio of Charles Gleyre, painter and professor at the school of fine arts – Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) and Claude Monet (1840-1926) – would begin to work outdoors (“ en plein air ” or “ sur le motif ”), in locations such as the forest of Fontainebleau, Barbizon and Marlotte, only a dozen kilometres from Moret.
They were all inspired by the English painters Constable and Turner, whose work Sisley had become well acquainted with following several stays on the other side of the Channel, as well as the Realist movement in France, in particular Gustave Courbet and the master landscape artists of the Barbizon school, Corot (1796-1875) and Daubigny (1817-1878). The small group sought to innovate, going against the flow of Academic art, by reproducing the specific ambiance of a real place, in accordance with one of the precepts of Corot: “Never lose sight of that first impression by which you were moved”. After the forest of Fontainebleau, the favourite subject of Sisley and his friends was unquestionably the Seine and its tributaries. In 1866, Renoir and Sisley hired a boat to paint the river up close, from totally new angles. In the spring of 1874, along with Monet and Renoir, as well as Cézanne, Pissaro, Degas and Berthe Morisot, Alfred Sisley exhibited his paintings in the studio of photographer Nadar in Paris, on the fringe of the official exhibitions.


Did you know? "Sur le motif"

” Sur le motif ” is a French term used to describe a painting done often outdoors, as opposed to working from a sketch for example. It involves painting outdoors, in nature, working directly with the subject, often a landscape, as the pre-impressionists and impressionists did, armed with their easels and brushes.