It’s a blue sky with powder puff clouds, reflected in the river running by. Some of the trees are in leaf, some in bud, some in bloom. The grass is spring green. A few people are enjoying the spring day – they look almost like part of the landscape, except for the woman, head down, coming toward us.
Alfred Sisley loved painting landscapes. He painted the textures of clouds in the skies, the shimmer of light on water, the shapes of trees, the bulk of buildings and the changing colours of the weather and the seasons. To look at his work is to see the beauty of all these things, and to see the care and love with which he observed the world around him.
What we don’t see is that Alfred Sisley was one of those people who never quite fit. He was an Englishman who was born in France and lived there all his life, yet never officially became a French national. His paintings were not quite conventional for his times, not quite impressionistic. His work was accepted by the official Salon, and he exhibited with the Impressionists who had been rejected by the Salon. Born into a prosperous family, he found himself living in poverty after his father’s business failed. Although he spent his life working as an artist, his paintings only began to sell later in his life and never sold for as much as the work of his contemporaries.
Yet he kept on painting and observing. He saw his purpose as giving life to the art he created, using color, form and surface, and through everything that happened to him he held fast to that purpose. We are the beneficiaries – he left us many beautiful paintings to enjoy, including this image of a soft Spring day.