In 1878 Sisley moved to 7 avenue de Bellevue in Sèvres, a suburb of Paris famous for its porcelain factory, where he resided for the next two and a half years, painting many views of the town including the quays, bridge and square as well as it's famous porcelain factory (D. 307, fig. 1, sold at Christie's, New York, 4 May 2005, lot 23 for $1,564,000).
Painted in his first year in Sèvres, Promenade des marronniers, with its complex composition of horizontals and verticals, is a particularly modern interpretation of this riverside road. As Christopher Lloyd has observed: 'The group of paintings by Sisley dating from the 1870s are subject to the strictest pictorial organization. It is this compositional aspect, in addition to their facture that makes these pictures, in comparison with landscapes by artists of the Barbizon School, specially modern. Sisley incorporates an almost relentless array of horizontals, verticals and diagonals deployed as plunging perspectives and flat bands of planar divisions [see D40, fig. 1 Villeneuve-la-Garenne; D.286, fig. 2, L'Allée des Marronniers; and D.288, fig. 3, Paysage à Sèvres]. The origins of such a style can be found in seventeenth century French painting carried forward through Henri-Pierre Valenciennes to neo-classical landscape painting culminating in the Italian landscapes of Corot dating from the 1820s. Yet Sisley, more so in many cases than even Pissarro and Monet, was more radical than any of his sources, since he seeks to bring order to a world in an ever increasing state of flux. The depiction of modernity was best served by a resolute style derived from astute visual analysis and confident technique' (C. Lloyd, 'Alfred Sisley and the Purity of Vision' in Alfred Sisley, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1992, pp. 14-15).
Promenade des marronniers has an outstanding provenance which includes several prestigeous 19th and 20th century collectors. One of the earliest, if not the first owners of Promenade des Marronniers was François Depeaux (1853-1920), the Rouen industrialist who was Sisley's most prominent patron in the 1880s and 1890s. Significantly, in the same years Depeaux was also sponsoring Monet and Pissarro. He entertained both artists on his estate at Le Mesnil-Esnard near Rouen, saw them both in London, and, in 1900, invited Monet's son Michel to his Swansea house, where Sisley had worked three years before. When family complications forced Depeaux to sell part of his extensive collection in 1901 it included works by Renoir, Pissarro and Monet, as well as forty-six works by Sisley. A significant remainder of his collection was gifted to Rouen in 1909 which forms in large part the important Impressionist collection at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen today.
Promenade des marronniers was purchased from the Depeaux sale by Galerie Georges Petit who sold it to the playwright and collector Henry Bernstein (1876-1953) who became a great collector of Impressionist art himself. Passing through the hands of Galerie Durand-Ruel and Paul Cassirer the present work was then acquired by Eduard Arnhold (fig. 4, 1849-1925), one of the most important patrons in Germany at the begining of the twentieth century. Arnhold amassed a large collection of important works by the Old Masters, the German Romantics and the French and German Impressionists. The French Impressionist part of the Arnhold collection was legendary, including Monet's Le banc now in the Annenberg collection, Manet's Le bon Bock now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Cézanne's Dans la vallée de l'Oise now in the Goetz Collection, Los Angeles and several other fine and important works by Monet, Sisley, Manet, Degas and their contemporaries.
The most prestigeous owners of Promenade des marronniers to date have been Mr & Mrs Paul Mellon, whose refined taste and philanthropic activities are famed. The son of Andrew Mellon, one of the founding benefactors of the National Gallery of Washington, Paul Mellon's first significant purchases were French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Many of the masterpieces they purchased now hang in the National Gallery, Washington.
Promenade des marronniers
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated 'Sisley 78' (lower right)
Paris, Galerie des Arts, Exposition d'Art Moderne, June - July 1912, no. 10.
New York, Carroll Carstairs Gallery, The 1870's in France, December 1938.
New York, Carroll Carstairs Gallery, Impressionists and Modern French Art, December 1946 - January 1947.
New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, French Paintings of the Latter Half of the Nineteenth Century, April - May 1950, no. 19.
Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, French Paintings from the collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon, 1966, no. 77.
Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum, Monet and Renoir: Two Great Impressionist Trends, November 2003 - January 2004, p. 58, no. 27 (illustrated in colour); this exhibition later travelled to Tokyo, the Bunkamura Museum of Art, February - May 2004.
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART
20 3/8 x 24 5/8 in. (51.8 x 62.5 cm.)
Art News, 3 December 1938, p. 13 (illustrated p. 12).
F. Daulte, Alfred Sisley: Catalogue raisonné de l'Oeuvre Peint, Lausanne, 1959, no. 285 (illustrated).
François Depeaux, Rouen; sale, Hôtel Drouot, 25 April 1901.
Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, by whom acquired at the above sale, (Ffr. 6,000).
Henry Berstein, Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot, 8 June 1911, lot 26.
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, by whom acquired at the above sale (Ffr. 2,200).
Paul Cassirer, Berlin.
Eduard Arnhold (1849-1925), Dresden.
Carroll Carstairs Gallery, New York (no. 699).
Mr & Mrs Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia, by 1938.
Private collection, America; sale, Christie's, New York, 15 November 1983, lot 16.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, New York, 1 May 1996, lot 20.