Moret-sur-Loing depicts one of the most iconic landscapes in Sisley's oeuvre, showing the town of Moret across the river Loing (fig. 1). In the last decade of his life, Moret provided a perfect setting for the artist, who cherished its beauty and quietness, and found in it an important source of inspiration. He took particular interest in the town's Gothic church of Notre-Dame, a subject of a large series of paintings, visible in the present composition rising above the houses on the left. Sisley was also fascinated by the river Loing, with its multi-arched bridge lined with mills which he painted from a multitude of viewpoints (fig. 2). For the present work, Sisley set up his easel across the river from Moret, a position that offered him a great view of the town's architecture as well as its reflection on the water surface. Depicting the landscape on a cloudy day, he captured the shifting effect of light and shadows, creating a rich, dynamic composition.
The present work is one of the most comprehensive views of Moret, encompassing the bridge, the town gates, the church and the houses, as well as the nature around it. The town is seen here through the Porte de Bourgogne, a twelfth-century town gateway leading into Moret from the western end of the bridge. Sylvie Patin described the view of Porte de Bourgogne in the present work: 'Here it stands out against the sky, slightly to left of centre. At the far left, the roof and tower of Moret church are outlined against the clouds; in the foreground, between the two central arches of the bridge, is the Provencher watermill. The centre of the composition is occupied by the postern gate that links the streets of the town with the poplar-lined embankment that runs along the River Loing. The poplars, and the overall lighting, serve to emphasise the decorative character of the scene' (S. Patin in Alfred Sisley (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 222).
Moret-sur-Loing was once in the collection of Maurice Masson, who owned a number of paintings by Impressionist artists, particularly Sisley and Monet. In the catalogue that accompanied the sale of his collection at Hôtel Drouot in 1911, the present work was described as 'the most complete, and, by virtue of its size, also the most important [work]. All that the artist loved is concentrated in this one painting: the skies, the waters and the banks of the little river Loing, beside which he had settled, and the place that he loved above all others, with its old church, its huddled houses, its age-old bridge, its grassy banks. He has created an epitome, as it were, of all the separate motifs from which, in isolation, he extracted so many magnificent paintings' (ibid., p. 222).
Richard Shone discussed the appeal of this picturesque town: 'The fame of Moret rested not so much on what was found inside the town but on the view it presented from across the Loing. Old flour and tanning mills clustered along the bridge; the river, scattered with tiny islands, seemed more like a moat protecting the houses and terraced gardens that, on either side the sturdy Porte de Bourgogne, in turn defended the pinnacled tower of the church. Add to this the tree-lined walks along the river, the continuous sound of water from the weir and the great wheels of the mills, the houseboats and fishermen, and there was, as every guidebook exclaimed, 'a captivating picture', a sight 'worthy of the brush'. These supremely picturesque aspects of Moret left Sisley unabashed. Gathered in one spot were the motifs that had mesmerized him since he began to paint. Here were water, sky, reflections, a busy riverside; the multi-arched bridge was for the artist the last in a long line of such structures going back through Sèvres and St-Cloud and Hampton Court to Argenteuil and Villeneuve-la-Garenne. Here was that conjunction of man-made and natural, the interleaving of foliage and house fronts between sky and water' (R. Shone, Sisley, London, 1992, p. 159).
Oil on canvas
Paris, Bernheim-Jeune, 1911, no. 38
Tokyo, Ginza Matsuzakaya; Sapporo, Sapporo Matsuzakaya; Osaka, Osaka Matsuzakaya; Yamaguchi, Prefectural Museum; Nagoya, Nagoya Matsuzakaya; Shizuoka, Shizuoka Matsuzakaya; Tokyo, Ueno Matsuzakaya, Le Centenaire de I'Impressionnisme, 1974, no. 62
Paris, Galerie H. Odermatt et P. Cazeau, Maîtres des XIXe et XXe siècles, 1990, no. 6
London, Royal Academy of Arts; Paris, Musée d'Orsay & Baltimore, The Walters Art Gallery, Alfred Sisley, 1992-93, no. 64, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled Moret-sur-Loing - la Porte de Bourgogne)
65 by 92cm. 25 5/8 by 36 1/4 in.
Louis Réau, Histoire de l'art, Paris, 1926, vol. VII, p. 596, illustrated fig. 374
François Daulte, Alfred Sisley. Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Lausanne, 1959, no. 761, illustrated
François Daulte, Sisley - Les Saisons, Paris, 1992, no. 38, illustrated p. 68
François Daulte, 'Sisley à Moret', in L'OEil, Paris, November 1992, no. 446, illustrated p. 53
Richard Shone, Sisley, London, 1992, no. 141, illustrated in colour p. 181; detail illustrated in colour pp. 178-179
Charles Guasco, Paris (sale: Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, 11th June 1900, lot 65)
Georges Petit, Paris (purchased at the above sale)
Rosenberg Fils, Paris (acquired from the above)
Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired on 9th October 1906)
Maurice Masson, Paris (acquired from the above on 25th October 1906. Sale: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 22nd June 1911, lot 37)
Léon Orosdi, Paris (purchased at the above sale. Sold: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 25th May 1923, lot 62)
Georges Bernheim, Paris (purchased at the above sale)
Fred de Andria, Lausanne
Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York
John T. Dorrance, Jr., USA (acquired from the above in June 1982. Sale: Sotheby's, New York, The Collection of John T. Dorrance, Jr., 18th October 1989, lot 35)
Private Collection (purchased at the above sale)
Private Collection (acquired from the above circa 1991)