In the 1870s, Sisley, like his colleagues Monet and Pissarro, often painted the roads, bridges, and waterways linking Paris with the rapidly suburbanizing villages to the north and west. This picture depicts a site near the town of Louveciennes, on the main thoroughfare between Versailles and Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Sisley's juxtaposition of two figures on the road—a laborer pushing a cart and a man wearing a sophisticated black suit and top hat—evokes the contrast between old-fashioned country life and modern urban society. The loose, summary brushwork is characteristic of Sisley’s technique in the latter part of the decade.
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Title:The Road from Versailles to Louveciennes
Artist:Alfred Sisley (British, Paris 1839–1899 Moret-sur-Loing)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:18 x 22 in. (45.7 x 55.9 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Rodgers, 1964
Topography: This landscape, with nothing architectural to distinguish it, was titled Une route près de Louveciennes when it was first exhibited in 1927 and by François Daulte, author of the 1959 Sisley catalogue raisonné. Based on style, he assigned the canvas to 1879. Sisley was living at the time in busy suburban Sèvres, having left the country village of Louveciennes two years earlier. However, the distance between the two is not great. The main thoroughfare from Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Versailles passes through Louveciennes, and in 1979, Jacques de Laÿ, a local resident, identified this stretch of road as the approach to the former royal park of Marly (which lies on high ground above the Seine river valley).
The Painting: The composition is organized around the straight diagonal of the road, which is set off by three trees in leaf, two on the near side and one further away, beside a harvested field, suggesting that the season is late summer or early autumn. The sky especially is painted loosely, with a few bright pink flecks among the branches of the largest tree and several dry sweeping and curving brushstrokes to accentuate the shape of the tree furthest to the right. These strokes are deliberately left visible. A laborer wheels a cart in one direction while a man in formal dress wearing a black top hat, who has already passed by, turns to look over his shoulder. The figures are typical of Sisley in that they are without facial features, tall, and with their limbs carelessly indicated, the man in black with bent, stilt-like legs. In the 1870s in the countryside, most people traveled very significant distances on foot, as the artist himself would have done throughout his career in search of his subjects.
Katharine Baetjer 2020
Inscription: Signed (lower left): ·Sisley.
[Durand-Ruel, New York; sold to Davis]; Erwin Davis, New York (until 1899; sold on April 14 to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, New York, 1899–at least 1947]; [Sam Salz, New York]; Mr. and Mrs. Richard Rodgers, New York (by 1959–64; his life interest, 1964–d. 1972; her life interest, 1964–d. 1992)
New York. Durand-Ruel Galleries. "Exhibition of Paintings by Alfred Sisley, 1839–1899," April 19–May 3, 1927, no. 7 (as "Une route près de Louveciennes").
New York. Durand-Ruel Galleries. "Alfred Sisley: Centennial, 1840–1940," October 2–21, 1939, no. 16 [see Sterling and Salinger 1967].
New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Early Impressionism: 1868–1883," March 31–April 12, 1941, no. 25.
Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Skidmore Art Gallery. "Exhibition of Modern French Paintings: drawings, lithographs, etchings, fine printing and bookbinding," February 8–25, 1942, no. 10 [see Durand-Ruel 1947].
Lincoln. University of Nebraska. "56th Anniversary Exhibition," 1946, no. 199 [see Durand-Ruel 1947].
Hartford. Wadsworth Atheneum. "Music Makers," July 9–August 9, 1959, no. 16 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Richard Rodgers).
New York. Paul Rosenberg & Co. "Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Alfred Sisley, 1839–1899," October 30–November 25, 1961, no. 12 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Richard Rodgers).
Fort Lauderdale. Museum of Art. "Corot to Cézanne: 19th Century French Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," December 22, 1992–April 11, 1993, no catalogue.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 82.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Französische Meisterwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts aus dem Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1–October 7, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Exhibition of Paintings by Alfred Sisley, 1839–1899. Exh. cat., Durand-Ruel. New York, 1927, unpaginated, no. 7, dates it 1875.
Durand-Ruel. 19th and 20th Century French Paintings, 20th Century American Paintings. Vol. 1, New York, 1947, unpaginated, ill.
François Daulte. Alfred Sisley: Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint. Lausanne, 1959, unpaginated, no. 381, ill., includes it with works from 1879.
François Daulte. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. June 15, 1965, explains that it is dated 1879 on stylistic grounds.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, p. 120, ill.
Jacques G. Laÿ. Letter to Anne Wagner. November 1, 1979, believes that it was painted in 1879; identifies this as the road from Versailles to Louveciennes, today Route Nationale 186.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 465, ill. p. 464.
Kathryn Calley Galitz inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 118, 258, no. 82, ill. (color and black and white).
Sylvie Brame and François Lorenceau. Alfred Sisley: Catalogue critique des peintures et des pastels. Lausanne, 2021, pp. 156, 448, 549, no. 356, ill. (color), dates it about 1879.
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