We’ve been harping on about the mini-renaissance experienced by Sisley paintings. When we say mini-renaissance, we do of course mean that his works are selling for significantly higher margins than predicted. That’s not a personal surprise – we’ve been ardent supporters of Sisley and his dedication to the Impressionist landscape, but it finally seems his dedication is being supported at the auctions – an 1884 oil painting entitled Les Coteaux De La Celle-sous-Moret, vus de Saint-Mammes, which roughly translates to The Hills of Celle-sous-Moret, seen from St. Mammes, measuring 54.2 by 73cm, recently sold for 1,161,250 GBP (or USD $1,827,923.62) much higher than the expected top range of 800,00 GBP. Well, we think it was worth every penny.
The Sisley painting in question depicts the landscape around the small village of Saint Mammes, which was the area where Sisley painted many of his most famous paintings. The area was, of course, also home to the Sisley family from 1880 – the Englishman thoroughly loved the scenery and it provided as much inspiration for him as Monet’s gardens at Giverny. The painting in question is actually one of a broad series of landscapes around Sain Mammes – from 1880 to 1882 he painted many views of the riverbank, quayside and bridge of the town, hence his can be seen as the culmination of all previous works.
Noted Sisley scholar Vivienne Couldrey best describes the inspiration of this scene for Sisley, in her must read for Sisley fans, Alfred Sisley, The English Impressionist, published by Exeter in 1992. On page 68 she notes: “it is difficult to over emphasise 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 on the ill-de-France, the soft colours and the constantly changing skies of northern France. There are green woods and pastures, curing tree-lined banks of rivers, canals and narrow streams, wide stretches of the river where the Loin joins the Seine at Saint-Mammes, old stone houses, churches and bridges”.
Thus, when someone buys a Sisley painting, they are not only getting a masterful Impressionist artwork, but truly a slice of the French countryside as captured by one of the greatest artists to traverse the rich soil of France. As art historian and critic Gustave Geffroy noted in his work Sisley in Les Cahiers d’Aujourd’hui, Paris, 1923, the very act of painting was a spiritual one for Sisley and the Impressionists: “[Sisley] sought to express the harmonies that prevail, in all weathers and at every time of the day between foliage, water and sky, and he succeeded…. He loved river banks; the fringes of woodland; towns and villages glimpsed through the trees; old buildings swamped in greenery; winter morning sunlight, summer afternoons.” We love Sisley here too, on a deeply spiritual level.