Though celebrated today as one of the earliest and most creative of the Impressionists, the landscapist Alfred Sisley (French, 1839-1899) enjoyed no such recognition during his lifetime. From the early 1870s, when he began to paint professionally, until his death in 1899, he practiced his art in poverty and obscurity, struggling in vain against a hostile public and indifferent press.
A Parisian by birth, Sisley entered the atelier of Charles Gleyre in 1862 and there befriended fellow students Claude Monet, Frédéric Bazille and Renoir. Within months the four young artists had departed from Gleyre's studio for Chailly-en-Bière and the nearby Fontainebleau Forest. There, through their communal experiments with plein-air painting, they sowed the first seeds of Impressionism, and by 1870 Sisley's landscapes had begun to exhibit the clear, high-keyed tones and sketchy, broken color touches of the new style. Though his later landscapes displayed the formal disintegrations inherent in the Impressionist technique, Sisley remained committed to an art of compositional and spatial clarity, to architectonically structured landscapes and carefully calibrated perspectives.