Alfred Sisley — the “Poplars” Paintings (c. 1890)

30 Nov

Alfred Sisley, Lane of Poplars at Moret (c. 1890)

As regular followers of this blog know, I’m a big fan of Alfred Sisley, who is the least-well-known of the original Impressionists.  I’ve always been attracted to Sisley’s three paintings of the poplars of Moret, not just because of their individual beauty but also because in them we see Sisley treating the same subject in different ways and from different perspectives.

In Lane of Poplars at Moret (above) Sisley captures the poplars from slightly to the side, using bright blues and purples to delineate negative space, in contrast with the pinks and yellows in the positive space.  Based on the shadows it’s either morning or late afternoon, and I’m guessing late afternoon — if someone knows the answer, please post and let us know!

In Lane of Poplars at Moret Sur-Loing (below) Sisley treats the same subject from a more direct perspective, straight up the lane.  The shadows fall in the opposite direction from those in Lane of Poplars at Moret, so I’m guessing this one was painted in the morning.  Again, if you know the answer please post.  In this painting Sisley’s composition, with clear lines drawing the eye from foreground to background, is reflective (to my eye, at least) of the influence of Camille Corot, whose work Sisley admired and often emulated.  Again there is the strong use of blues and purples bouncing off yellows and pinks.  Very nice.

Alfred Sisley, Lane of Poplars at Moret Sur-Loing (c. 1890)

Finally, in Lane of Poplars Near Moret, Cloudy Morning (below) Sisley treats the same subject from the same basic perspective used in Lane of Poplars at Moret Sur-Loing, but under different lighting conditions.  Thus we see a much more prominent use of earthy reds — even in the sky — as well as oranges and very dark greens.

Alfred Sisley, The Lane of Poplars Near Moret, Cloudy Morning (c. 1890)

As a point of interest, Lane of Poplars at Moret Sur-Loing has the distinction of being one of the most frequently stolen of all Impressionist works.  The painting has been stolen and recovered three times, most recently in 2007 from the Beaux-Arts Jules Cheret museum in Nice, in a heist that saw the thieves threaten staff, stuff the painting (along with paintings by Monet and Brueghel) into a bag and escape in five minutes.  The Sisley painting was found unharmed in a sewer and returned to the museum.

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