National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1913
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Late 19th & early 20th Century Paintings & Decorative Arts Gallery Level 2, NGV International
‘Every picture’, wrote Alfred Sisley in 1893, ‘shows a spot with which the artist himself has fallen in love’. The subject of this painting is a calm stretch of the Loing River outside the historic township of Moretsur-Loing, where Sisley spent the last decade of his life. This particular area, with its gently sloping hills, limestone embankment and simple buildings, was painted by the artist four times in 1890. Sisley often executed multiple paintings of a single location, on each occasion varying the viewing angle slightly, so that the individual canvases presented different perspectives on the one scene. These works, which were not necessarily intended to be viewed together in a sequence, exemplify the artist’s programmatic approach to visually plotting the distinctive features of a given location and exploring the relationships between them.
Sisley and his fellow Impressionists chose to work in this way not only because of the different perspectives afforded by this strategy, but also because working ‘in multiple’ enabled a close examination of the effects of changing light, and atmospheric conditions, upon a particular subject. In his paintings of Saint-Nicaise, Sisley investigated the seasonal changes in the light falling upon this riverside landscape.
Sisley executed two paintings of haystacks in the summer of 1891, a few months after Monet’s famous series had been exhibited to critical acclaim in Paris. Notwithstanding his adoption of Monet’s subject, Sisley’s treatment of the haystacks is very much his own. Eschewing Monet’s abstraction of the landscape context and his transformation of the fleeting moment into a universal statement, Sisley’s depiction remains a record of a particular location on a chilly afternoon in February, when the winter sun illuminated the dormant landscape with a crisp, clean light.