L’Abreuvoir de Marly-le-Roi, c. 1875
signed lower right Sisley
oil on canvas
33 x 41 cm. (13 x 16 ¼ in.)
It is time for a day trip. Do you have the picnic hamper? And the parasol?
Here we are on the banks of the Seine, only 20 kilometres to the west of Paris, in the valley of the Seine river. The place is Marly-le-Roi, where Impressionist painter Alfred Sisley settled in the first weeks of 1875. The Impressionist movement was emerging in this period after the group’s inaugural exhibition in Paris 1874 caused a storm, and, together with Monet, Pissarro and Renoir, Sisley travelled along the banks of the Seine, capturing the environment through the seasons.
The watering place at Marly-le-Roi, c. 1900, photographer unknown
So, what do we see? Sisley is painting the view he enjoyed from his house, looking across a man-made watering-place which was originally the site of a Château. It was, and remains, a popular spot for Parisian day trippers and locals alike, who bathed and hired boats to take out on the water. You can almost imagine the calming sound of the waves lapping the sides, and the solitary figure casts a serene air.
A. Sisley, L’Abreuvoir de Marly-le-Roy, c. 1875, oil on canvas, 49 x 65 cm, The National Gallery, London
How does Sisley capture the scene? He is a master of plein-air painting, a technique championed by the Impressionists which involved painting outdoors, immersed in the landscape. He uses the most sensitive brushstrokes and application of colour in the trees, the sky, and the houses across the watering place, in order to capture the essence of the place. It is a quintessential Impressionist painting with an attractive early date of circa 1875, a factor that is a big draw to collectors.
Right, sadly it is time to return to Paris and we lost track of time. We mustn’t miss the steam train back now!