ALFRED SISLEY (1839-1899) Péniches sur le Loing 13 x 16 in (33.5 x 41.5 cm) (Painted in 1896)

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Lot 6
Péniches sur le Loing 13 x 16 in (33.5 x 41.5 cm)

US$ 500,000 - 700,000
£ 400,000 - 560,000

Impressionist & Modern Art

14 May 2019, 17:00 EDT

New York

ALFRED SISLEY (1839-1899)
Péniches sur le Loing
signed and dated 'Sisley 96' (lower right)
oil on canvas
13 x 16 in (33.5 x 41.5 cm)
Painted in 1896


  • Provenance
    Lord Berners, London.
    Christie's, London, November 30, 1992, lot 7.
    Acquired at the above sale.

    London, The Independent Gallery, Paintings by Alfred Sisley, November - December 1927, no. 8.

    H.R. Wilenski, "The Sisley Compromise" in Apollo, January 1928 (illustrated p. 73).
    L. Berners, "A Collector's Motives" in The Studio, vol. 109, 1935 (illustrated p. 239).
    F. Daulte, Alfred Sisley, Catalogue Raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Lausanne, 1959, no. 849 (illustrated n.p.).

    Painted in 1896, Péniches sur le Loing ranks among the finest achievements of Sisley's mature oeuvre. A celebration of the picturesque charm of the Seine's riverbank, the present work exemplifies the artist's fascination with the quiet meanderings of the Seine's tributaries across the provincial villages of the Île de France. Painted near the town of Moret along the banks of the river Loing, the present work features the river that captivated Sisley throughout the last decade of his life.

    Sisley was fascinated by the river Loing and moved along with his family to Moret-sur-Loing in 1882. Located west of the Parisian suburbs approximately two hours by train away from the capital, the artist found endless inspiration painting the towns built across and along the river. Shortly after his arrival, the artist wrote to Claude Monet: "Moret is two hours journey from Paris, and has plenty of places to let at six hundred to a thousand francs. There is a market once a week, a pretty church, and beautiful scenery round about. If you were thinking of moving, why not come and see?" (A. Sisley quoted in Sisley, (exhibition catalogue), Wildenstein & Co., New York, 1966).

    Like Monet, Sisley continued to explore and develop Impressionist techniques throughout 1880s and into the late 1890s. It was through this experimentation that Sisley's brushwork became more vigorous and his palette more varied culminating in his great masterpieces of the 1890s. As Richard Shone noted, "Sisley worked in all seasons and weathers along this beautiful and still unspoilt bank of the Seine. Its topography gave him new configurations of space in which far horizons combined with plunging views below; the horizontals of skyline, riverbank and receding path are overlaid by emphatic verticals and diagonals to produce densely structured surfaces. This becomes particularly evident in his landscapes painted in winter or early spring, before summer foliage obscured these far-reaching lines of vision. It is then, too, that Sisley's skies assume a greater variety and grandeur. With more subtlety than before, he determines the exact relation of the sky to the silhouette of the land. He knows how to differentiate its planes, order its clouds, diminish or enlarge its scope to produce a harmony inseparable from the landscape below" (R. Shone, Sisley, London, 1992, p. 135).

    Sisley remained in Moret until his death in 1889. Richard Shone discussed the appeal of this picturesque town: "The fame of Moret rested not so much on what was found inside the town but on the view it presented from across the Loing. Old flour and tanning mills clustered along the bridge; the river, scattered with tiny islands, seemed more like a moat protecting the houses and terraced gardens that, on either side the sturdy Porte de Bourgogne, in turn defended the pinnacled tower of the church. Add to this the tree-lined walks along the river, the continuous sound of water from the weir and the great wheels of the mills, the houseboats and fishermen, and there was, as every guidebook exclaimed, 'a captivating picture', a sight 'worthy of the brush'. These supremely picturesque aspects of Moret left Sisley unabashed. Gathered in one spot were the motifs that had mesmerized him since he began to paint. Here were water, sky, reflections, a busy riverside; the multi-arched bridge was for the artist the last in a long line of such structures going back through Sèvres and St-Cloud and Hampton Court to Argenteuil and Villeneuve-la-Garenne. Here was that conjunction of man-made and natural, the interleaving of foliage and house fronts between sky and water" (R. Shone, ibid., p. 159).

    In her discussion of Sisley's paintings executed in this region, Vivienne Couldrey noted: "It is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of Moret, for Sisley painted most of his life's work in the area [...]. It is an essentially Impressionist place with the gentle light of the Ile de France, the soft colors and the constantly changing skies of northern France. There are green woods and pastures, curving tree-lined banks of rivers, canals and narrow streams, wide stretches of the river where the Loing joins the Seine at Saint-Mammès, old stone houses, churches and bridges" (V. Couldrey, Alfred Sisley, The English Impressionist, Exeter, 1992, p. 68).

    The present work is distinguished by its important early provenance. The first owner of Péniches sur le Loing was Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, also known as Lord Berners (1883-1950), the bon vivant and eccentric British composer, painter, novelist and aesthete. Born in 1883 in Shropshire to The Honorable Hugh Tyrwhitt and his wife Julia, Gerald became the 14th Baron Berners after the death of his uncle in 1918 and inherited his manor house and estate Faringdon House in Oxfordshire. While Lord Berners is most well known as an accomplished painter and composer, he is remembered by many as the fictionalized character Lord Merlin in Nancy Mitford's novel The Pursuit of Love. Mitford along with other members of the avant-garde including Salvador Dalí, Gertrude Stein and Igor Stravinsky frequently visited Lord Berners at Faringdon. An accomplished painter in his own right, Lord Berners was an avid art collector who at one time had the largest collection of works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot outside of the Louvre. In addition to works by Corot, Lord Berners also collected paintings by Cornelius van Polemberg, Salvador Dali, Albrecht Dürer and Alfred Sisley among many others.

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