This painting will be included in the new edition of the catalogue raisonné of Alfred Sisley by Francois Daulte now being prepared at Galerie Brame and Lorenceau by the Comité Alfred Sisley.
Sisley resided with his family during the final decade of his life in the picturesque town of Moret-sur-Loing, about forty miles (65 km) southeast of Paris. Among the numerous motifs he found in and around Moret, the artist most frequently depicted the view of the town from the opposite bank, as seen here, looking westward (fig. 1).
The Pont de Moret was an old arched stone structure; near the center of the span stood the Provencher water mill, consisting of the pair of large buildings seen at left in the present painting, which were situated to take advantage of the currents in the river for grinding grain and tanning. The bridge entered the once-walled town at the Porte de Bourgogne, the tall tower at right. The belfry of the Gothic church of Notre-Dame is visible behind the watermill. Sisley was drawn to the variety of views that these subjects offered when observed from different and easily accessible vantage points. Richard Shone has noted, "Here were water, sky, reflections, a busy riverside... Here was the conjunction of the man-made and natural, the interleaving of foliage and house fronts between sky and water... With the exception of two groups of paintings--of the town's church and of the Welsh coast--all the best works from the last decade of Sisley's life are concentrated around this beguiling reach of the Loing" (in Sisley, New York, 1992, p. 159).
Sisley painted his first views of the Pont de Moret in the fall of 1887 and the spring of 1888 (Daulte, nos. 655 and 663ff), while he was still living in nearby Sablons. The present painting is one of a sequence of eight he completed in 1892 (the others are Daulte, nos. 787-793), in which, by shifting his position on the east bank of the river and during different times of the day, he focused on a different stretch of the townscape on the opposite side, ranging from the arches of the bridge on the left, to the riverside row of poplars on the right. Gustave Geffroy, the noted writer and friend of the Impressionists, described Sisley's treatment of the Pont de Moret:
"He paints Moret bridge in the morning, after rain. The atmosphere is pure and fresh; the masses of houses and trees are clearly outlined in the pure air, with no halo of mist or of refracted sunlight. The rustic bridge arches the river to either side of the mill; behind are houses with cosy roofs, low countrified buildings, a dense wood giant poplars. A calm sky, with milk-white nimbus clouds unmoved by any breath of air. The bank is green, the bridge and houses are in harmonies of violet, closer to pink than to blue. The Loing, clear, transparent, unwrinkled, expansive, reflects stones and greenery, clouds and reedbeds. The river is as deep as the sky; it has the same wealth of forms and colours as the landscape that it mirrors.
"How often Sisley painted this Moret bridge! He hewed it in broad, plain masses, in a single vigorous impulse. What sureness there is in all this fire and energy! Beneath what limpid, mother-of-pearl skies iridescent with blues and pinks, and above what calm or boiling waters, do those dark arches bow beneath their burden of history! The painter leaves his landscape in the autumn; he comes back to it in the spring. His Moret, his Loing, his bridge, return to life in the new season. The youthful light transfigures the age-old stones" (in Sisley, Paris, 1923, pp. 16-18).
(fig. 1) The bridge at Moret, in a photograph taken in 1882. BARCODE 20625191
Le pont et les moulins de Moret sur Loing
Oil on canvas
Signed 'Sisley' (lower right)
Alfred Sisley , Paintings, oil, France, Impressionist, landscape
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART
18 x 21 7/8 in. (45.8 x 55.5 cm.)
Galerie Thannhauser, Lucerne.
Private collection, Australia (acquired from the above, 1939).
M. Fivaz, Lausanne (acquired, circa 1987).
Private collection, Switzerland (by descent from the above).
Private collection, United States.