Born in Paris, on October 30, of English parents, Willliam Sisley, a textile merchant and Felicia Sell, a florist.
Sent to England to prepare a commercial career but shows no aptitude for business. Visits museums and exhibitions where he admires Turner and Constable.
Moves back to France and studies in the studio of the Swiss painter, Charles Gabriel Gleyre, for two years, where he meets Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Frédéric Bazille. Together they work in the suburbs of Paris, painting “en plein air”.
Having left the Gleyre studio, works near Fontainebleau, in Chailly and Marlotte, often in the open air with Auguste Renoir.
Meets Camille Pissarro and Claude Monet in March. In May, works at La Celle-Saint-Cloud where he paints an alley of chesnuts. His first paintings are surprisingly strong and reveals the influence of the Barbizon Echool, but also an independance, more or less in relation with the brushwork of Monet’s early development, for example Châtaigners à La Celle-Saint-Cloud (circa 1865, Paris, Petit Palais).
Accepted at the Salon for the first time where he exhibits two landscapes: Femmes allant au bois and Rue de Village à Marlotte (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.). Goes to Le Havre with Renoir to see sailings regattas.
Refused at the Salon together with Monet, Cézanne, Bazille and Pissarro. They sign the petition for the Salon des Refusés.
While travelling during the summer in Honfleur, often meets Claude Monet.
Birth of his son, Pierre, with his wife Eugénie Lescouezec, a florist. Lives in Paris, Cité des Fleurs, near Montmartre.
In April, goes with his wife to Chailly-en-Bière, near Fontainebleau; meets with Renoir who paints the Portrait du Couple Sisley (Wallraf Richartz Museum, Koln).
Between 1868 and 1870, exhibits his paintings at the Paris Salon and starts studying with Camille Corot. Maintains an affinity for the French countryside, but is also strongly influenced by English landscape painters.
Birth of his daughter Jeanne (she will later marry Louis Georges Dietsh and her collection will be sold after her death in June 1919 in Paris, Hôtel Drouot).
Refused for the second time at the Salon. Keeps on working however and paints still lifes. Spends his evenings at the Café Gerbois, where he and his old friends from Atelier Gleyre congregate around Edouard Manet. Meets there the critics Armand Silvestre and Emile Zola.
Exhibits two paintings at the Salon: Péniches sur le Canal Saint Martin (Oscar Reinhart Collection, Winterthur, Switzerland) and Vue du Canal Saint Martin (Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Donation Paul Gachet). Until then, was still supported financially by his father which allowed him to practise his art freely.
Beginning of the Franco-Prussian war: his father looses most of his belongings. The financial security Sisley had always known comes to an end. He will now have to live and support his family thanks to his art.
Decides to move with his family to the village of Louveciennes, situated on the river Seine, about thirty kilometers west of the capital. Rents a small house at N°2, rue de la Princesse, where he will stay until 1874.
Through the application of pure colour with broken brushstrokes and the treatment of light, his style becomes essentially impressionist (Première neige à Louveciennes, 1870, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts).
Goes to Argenteuil with Monet and occasionally to Villeneuve-la-Garenne; in March, Durand-Ruel purchases his first Sisley painting. In Louveciennes, lives near Renoir’s house, one of his closest friends at the time; the two men often set off together to paint the contryside around them. Pissarro has also been there since 1869 and it is probably the vicinity of his fellow artists as much as the beauty and convenient location of the region, that drew Sisley to this charming village. During his time there, Sisley will paint a number of scenes of the village, its winding and tree-lined roads.
While others Impressionist painters such as Monet and Renoir, prefer to depict summer scenes and sunny landscapes, Sisley and Pissarro enjoy painting the winter scenery of Louveciennes, its streets, houses and trees covered in snow.
In December, the Seine overflows and Sisley paints his first series of “flood” scenes at Port-Marly.
Participates to the First exhibition of Impressionist Artists (“Société anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs”). Begins selling his paintings to Ernest Hoschedé.
In the summer, is invited in England by his friend Jean-Baptiste Faure, the baritone of the Opéra-Comique, where he spends 4 months. Visits Hampton Court and East Molesey.
Its is a time of harmony and subtlety in Sisley’s manner which can be considered as one of the outstanding periods of Impressionism.
Durand-Ruel publishes a Recueil prefaced by Armand Silvestre who compares the art of Sisley to that of Monet: "Au premier abord, on distingue mal ce qui différencie (leurs peintures respectives). Un peu d’étude vous apprend bientôt que M. Monet est le plus habile et le plus osé, M. Sisley le plus harmonieux et le plus craintif" (First of all, one has difficulty distinguishing what differentiates the painting of Monet from that of Sisley. However, after a little study, one finds that Mr. Monet is the most skillfull and the most daring, Mr. Sisley the most harmonious and the most timid).
Moves to N°2, avenue de l’Abreuvoir in Marly-le-Roi, near Louveciennes.
In March, exhibits with Monet, Berthe Morisot and Renoir. The reception of the public remains hostile.
In March, a serious flood overruns Port-Marly. While Monet begins his series of views of the Gare Saint-Lazare, Sisley records different aspects of the flood.
Placing his easel in front of the wine merchant “A Saint Nicolas”, Sisley reveals his fascination for the sky, and its reflections in the rising water.
In April, participates to the Second Impressionist Exhibition.
In September, Mallarmé publishes an article in The Art Monthly Review, where he analyses the work of Sisley: "Il fixe les moments fugitifs de la journée, observe un nuage qui passe et semble le peindre en son vol. Sur sa toile, l’air vif se déplace et les feuilles encore frissonnent et tremblent. Il aime les peindre surtout au printemps, quand les jeunes feuilles sur les branches légères poussent à l’envie, quand, rouge d’or, vert roussi, les dernières tombent en automne, car espace et lumière ne font alors qu’un, et la brise agite le feuillage, l’empêche de devenir une masse opaque, trop lourde pour donner l’impression d’agitation et de vie" (He captures the fleeting moments of the day, watches a passing cloud and seems to paint it in flight. On his canvas, the breeze makes the leaves tremble and rustle. He likes to paint them especially in spring, when the young leaves on the slender branches vie with each other as they unfurl, when, the last leaves, red, golden and russet, fall in autumn, for space and light are then one, and the leaves flutter in the breeze, preventing the painting from becoming an impenetrable mass, too heavy to give the impression of movement and life), Verdier, pp 153-154.
Takes part in the Third Impressionist Exhibition and shows 17 landscapes in Paul Durand-Ruel‘s Gallery.
Leaves Marly-le-Roi and moves to Sèvres, just west of Paris. Is short of money at that time.
The new environment offers a variety of subjects to the artist; he finds inspiration in several areas in the vicinity of Sèvres, including Chaville, Meudon and Louveciennes. At that time, he is particularly interested in depicting winter scenes, fascinated by the evanescent quality of snow. He tries to capture the unique light of short winter days and discovers a whole new palette of icy blue and purple tones, evoking an atmosphere of stillness and tranquillity.
Moves with his family from the outskirts of bustling Paris to the rural village of Veneux-Nadon, near Moret-sur-Loing and the forest of Fontainebleau.
He finds the rivers in this area especially attractive and inspiring. Only a short distance from Veneux-Nadon, the rivers Loing and Seine converged at Saint-Mammès, providing the artist with a number of riverside views. The picturesque village becomes the subject of numerous paintings in the 1880s. As Sylvie Patin explains, "it was in the Saint-Mammès river scene of 1881 that Sisley began to analyze the various sections of landscape through application of different types of brush strokes" (exhibition catalogue, Veneux-Nadon and Moret sur Loing: 1880-1899, Alfred Sisley, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1992).
Durand Ruel sends several paintings by Sisley to the "Septième exposition des Artistes Indépendants": it will be his last group exhibition with his Impressionist friends, Caillebotte, Monet and Renoir.
In September, moves to Moret-sur-Loing.
Durand-Ruel exhibits sixty paintings by Sisley in his gallery in June.
In October, Sisley moves to the Sablons because the climate of Moret does not suite to him; during the year, Durand-Ruel supports Sisley financially.
Sisley continues exploring the Impressionist style; his brushwork become more vigorous and his palette more varied. "His originality mainly shows in a novel and unexpected coloration" defined as "rose-tinted lilac blue" (Duret, 1902).
Exhibits in London at Dudley Gallery in 1884 and at Dowdeswell & Dowdeswell in 1885. Durand-Ruel asks him to send lighter and smaller paintings.
Continuing to concentrate on the fugitive effects of light and atmosphere, he places great emphasis on the sky of his paintings, regarding it as the most active part of a landscape, the unifying pole of the other elements.
Starts restricting himself to a limited number of motifs, mainly in Saint-Mammès and Moret-sur-Loing.
Moves to Veneux-Nadon, 32, Route Nationale. Unlike some of the other Impressionist painters, he and his family live in a great poverty. Is inscribed in the list of inhabitants of the village as “chef de ménage; artiste; étranger”.
Durand-Ruel acquires his last work from Sisley and exhibits several of his works in New York.
The value of his paintings do not increase in value during his lifetime; he will therefore always remain dependant on the generosity of his friends such as Caillebotte. Similarly, his work is appreciated and discussed by a limited number of critics, notably Théodore Duret and Adolphe Tavernier.
The Musée des Beaux Arts in Agen buys a painting, Matinée de Septembre, dated 1887.
Leaves Veneux to settle permanently in Moret, rue de l’Eglise. Begins the series of views of the church of Moret. The discovery of the surroundings of Veneux-Nadon and Moret-sur-Loing is crucial in this critical phase of his career, and opens the way for the more mature canvases of the early 1890s, among which Le Pont de Moret (The Minneapolis Institute of Arts) is an oustanding example.
Moves with his family to his last home at N°19 rue Montmartre in Paris. A more stable personal situation and a deeper awareness of the countryside are at the basis of his masterfully structured canvases at the beginning of this new decade. Being involved in the two major international exhibitions, with Les XX in Brussels and with Monet and Renoir at the Durand-Ruel Gallery in Boston, Sisley spends the spring and summer of 1891 in Moret, focusing on his cherished motifs of the banks of the Loing.
Octave Mirbeau publishes a short article in Le Figaro, criticizing Sisley’s later works: "On lui reproche d’être plus terne, moins frais. Les toiles qu’il nous offre aujourd’hui ne sont plus qu’un écho lointain, affaibli, de celles, si jolies, si jeunes, si vivantes, que je revois au fond de mes souvenirs enthousiastes et déjà vieux !" (His work is now criticized for lacking colours and freshness. The paintings he shows today are only a faraway echo of those so fine, so youthful, so lively that I still see in my enthusiastic and already old souvenirs!).
Answers to the highly favourable and extended article published by Tavernier by a long letter of thanks, explaining his ideas on painting: "Animation of the canvas is one of the hardest problems in painting. Giving life to a work of art is certainly one of the most necessary tasks of the true artist. Everything must serve this end: form, colour, surface. The artist’s impression is the life-giving factor, and only this impression can free that of the spectator."
Death of Caillebotte who bequeathes his personal collection to the Musée du Luxembourg; it includes seven paintings by Sisley.
Spends the summer in Sahurs, in Normandy where he paints several landscapes.
In autumn, Gustave Geffroy visits Sisley at Moret. He praises him in the Journal La Vie Artistique.
Catches influenza and is treated by Docteur Viau.
In January, Georges Petit exhibits 146 paintings and 5 pastels of the artist, covering the whole of his career.
Thanks to the collector François Depeaux, an industrialist from Rouen, goes back to England for the last time with Monet‘s son, Michel, during three months, and travels in Wales: Penarth and Cardiff, then Langland Bay. He marries there Eugénie Lescouezec, his longstanding companion.
Depeaux is Sisley’s most important patron in the 1880s and 1890s. Sponsoring also Monet, he entertains both artists on his estate at Le Mesnil-Esnard (west surroundings of Paris).
Dies in Moret on January 29, from a cancer of the throat, according to Vollard.
Several people try to organize exhibitions of his work: Monet, Galerie Bernheim, Galerie Georges Petit, Durand Ruel. In April, the paintings remaining in his atelier are sold at auction by the Galerie Georges Petit to the benefit of his children.
Ironically, the success that he was cruelly lacking in during his lifetime, came very shortly after his death. Gustave Geffroy observed that "On the day when Sisley’s death was announced […], a tremor ran through the public […]. The paintings suddenly gained a new prestige […]. The order of precedence started setting up. Alfred Sisley took his place in the glorious lineage of landscape painters […]. Any museum and any gallery that would now pretend to tell the story of great art in our century, would tell that story incompletely if eluding […] the gentle, delicate, luminous, shimmering paintings that punctuated the evolution of Alfred Sisley’s talent" (Geffroy, 1923, p. 28).