Banks of the Loing - Autumn Effect (Bords du Loing - Effet d'Automne)
Oil on canvas
65.7 x 81.7 cm
Received through JRSO (Jewish Restitution Successor Organization)
JRSO Number: 21006/6
Accession number: B50.11.0014
Though he was born in Paris and lived most of his life in France, Sisley was of English descent and retained his English citizenship throughout his lifetime. As a young man he was sent to London for four years to train for a business career, and it was perhaps during this period (1857–1860), that he took the opportunity to study the work of the English, Dutch, and Flemish artists in the National Gallery. The landscape painters, Constable in particular, would have appealed to him.
By the time he returned to France, Sisley was determined to become a painter, an easier decision for him than for most of his colleagues, as his parents were willing to support him financially. He entered the studio of the academic painter Charles Gleyre, where he met many of the young men who would later be called Impressionists. From the outset, he devoted himself to landscape, eschewing the large-scale figure painting with which all the other Impressionists experimented at one time or another. During the 1860s, he worked for a time in an area southeast of Paris near the Forest of Fontainebleau, along with Monet, Renoir, and Bazille. The Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), however, was to prove a personal disaster. His father was ruined financially and died soon after; moreover, his studio was ransacked by Prussian soldiers, and only a very few of his earlier works survived. He now had to support his common-law wife and two children and from the sale of his paintings alone.
During the early 1870s Sisley developed a personal style that was designed to capture a fleeting moment in a landscape. Working outdoors with his subject in view and painting directly onto the canvas, he employed the broken brushstrokes and bright tonality characteristic of Impressionism. In often recurring, carefully constructed compositions, he chronicled the encroachment of modernity on the rural areas where he lived and painted. When, at the end of the 1870s, most of his colleagues were reassessing the fundamental principles of Impressionism, Sisley remained steadfast in his belief in the movement’s validity.
In 1880 Sisley returned to the vicinity of the Forest of Fontainebleau, where he would live for the remainder of his life. Banks of the Loing — Autumn Effect was painted in his second autumn in Veneux-Nadon, a region that afforded magnificent views of the Loing River. In our painting, the artist has taken a high vantage point, looking out over a panoramic countryside with the gently curving river below. A few bare trees, one looming large in the foreground, slow the rush into the far distance. At the right, two small figures can be seen working in the fields. Sisley frequently populated his landscapes with indications of human activity, which through their unpretentious integration within the scene serve to underline man’s unity with nature. The richly variegated surface is beautifully articulated through diverse brushwork and paint textures, whose subtle nuances parallel the changing consistencies of land, water, and sky. A sweeping sense of deep space prevails, achieved by the receding bands of the land, the meandering river with tiny houses on its far bank, and the sky, which is gradated from strong blue to a very pale gray at the horizon. Harmonious pinks and blues predominate with touches of lilac that create an overall chromatic unity.