In a few of our artists’ posts this week, we noted the difficultly faced by some works of modern art at Sotheby’s February sale: A Dali painting known as Oasis failed to find a buyer, while a Klimt painting also failed to secure an invoice. Well, hold on to your britches, because Alfred Sisley, the English Impressionist, made more than expected, coming through with a sale of 937,250 sterling pound for an 1877 Sisley painting known as “Le Pont de St Cloud”, an oil on canvas measuring 51 by 62cm. It even exceeded estimates of 600,000-800,000 pounds. Say what? Sisley selling well? It seems the buyer liked the view of the Seine.
The Sisley painting was completed at a time when old Alfred was on a winning streak – the artist was seeing the light as never before, and in this particular painting he takes a seat with Paris behind him, capturing the Seine from an unconventional French perspective, but one that clearly shows the influence of Japanese woodblock prints. In fact, that is one of the strengths of the painting: the composition works with the river and landscape balancing the bridge, with the brilliant blues and gargantuan green capping off the majestic visual feast.
We hope the painting is a sign that the general art world is finally starting to realise the majesty of Alfred Sisley. As art critic Christopher Lloyd wrote in the accompanying auction notes: “the style of [Le pont de St Cloud] is vigorous. The rushing water in the foreground has a surface licked by strokes of orange and violet colour with touches of luminous white. The sky is equally animated and vividly coloured, although with more great blue. The spire of the church reaches up over the buildings in the town which are depicted by quixotic dabs of colour amounting to a confection and dynamism that is reminiscent of certain paintings by Cezanne dating from the mid 1870s.”
He goes on: “The slashed horizontal strokes used for the black forms of the barges tied up at the quai [quay] are remarkable both in terms of colour and degree of spontaneity. The painting reveals Sisley at his most vital and energetic”. While we’d agree with 99% of what he said, the Impressionists if anything were not really spontaneous, but rather studious – although they did paint outside, they refined and painstakingly made sure every brushstroke was perfect, not spontaneous in the least. But we’re just being picky. The work, by any definition, is an impressionist masterpiece.