Although Sisley was one of the greatest landscape painters of the 19th century and the only major Impressionist artist to work in Wales, he remains a fairly unfamiliar name to many. Sisley in England and Wales hosted by National Museum Cardiff from 7 March until 14 June 2009 will uncover the talents of Alfred Sisley, giving visitors an opportunity to see his vivid portrayals of the British landscape.
An exhibition organised by Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and The National Gallery, London, Sisley in England and Wales focuses on Sisley’s two painting campaigns in the UK – in England in 1874 and Wales in 1897. This exhibition will bring the result of these two visits together for the first time - revealing Sisley at two of the most creative moments of his life.
“Alfred Sisley’s views of the south Wales coast, painted at the very end of his life, have only recently been appreciated as the final flourish of his artistic career,” said Professor Ann Sumner, Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham who jointly curated the exhibition when at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.
The exhibition features the artist’s only surviving seascapes which were painted in Wales. Works range from those that capture the shimmering effects of light on the calm sea of the Bristol Channel at Penarth, to bold depictions of the mighty rocks at Langland Bay, in particular the massive outcrop known as Storr’s Rock.
Sisley came to Wales to marry his long-term companion Eugénie Lescouezec, which he did at Cardiff Registry Office on 5 August 1897. They had been together for 30 years, and only a few people knew they weren’t married. Both were suffering from cancer, from which Eugénie died in October 1898, and Sisley in January 1899. The purpose of their marriage was probably to legitimise their two children, Jeanne and Pierre.
They stayed in Penarth which Sisley described as ‘delicious’ and the lodgings at 4 Clive Place ‘charming.’ He said the town had ‘everything that a seaside town in England requires: an esplanade, a beech and a pier where you can walk on the sea.’
It was from Penarth, looking across the Bristol Channel, he painted the Cardiff shipping lane and views looking both east and west along the coast.
Sisley and Eugénie’s honeymoon was spent at the Osborne Hotel at Langland Bay – one of the most exclusive hotels in Wales at the time – where they stayed from August until late September. Sisley found the landscape here very different to Penarth. He thought the sea was ‘superb’ and used the waves crashing against a might rock, known as Storr’s Rock as the subject of a series of freely painted coastal views.
“It is wonderful to re-unite for the first time in Wales some of these magical paintings from Sisley’s late career,” said Charlotte Topsfield, Curator. “I think our visitors will be surprised and delighted to see these familiar sights along the south Wales coastline painted by a great Impressionist artist. We have known about the Welsh series for a long time and were lucky enough to acquire The Cliff at Penarth, Evening, Low Tide in 1993 and Storr’s Rock, Lady’s Cove, Evening, in 2004.
“These works, amongst others from private collections and museums in the UK, Europe and the USA make up an impressive selection of works which illustrate Sisley’s stay in England and Wales and reflect his commitment to Impressionist technique throughout his career.”
Visitors to National Museum Cardiff will be treated to a wealth of Alfred Sisley’s treasures at National Museum Cardiff from 7 March – 14 June 2009, at a time when areas of the Museum are being developed to host even more of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’ collection, and 58 works from the Davies collection being shared with a wider audience in the United States.
Admission to National Museum Cardiff and the exhibition is free thanks to the support of the Welsh Assembly Government.
Amgueddfa Cymru operates seven national museums across Wales. These are National Museum Cardiff, St Fagans: National History Museum, National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon, Big Pit: National Coal Museum, Blaenafon, National Wool Museum, Dre-fach Felindre, National Slate Museum, Llanberis and the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.
Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) The Cliff at Penarth, Evening, Low Tide, 1897 © Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. Acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund and the Gibbs Family Trust, 1993 (NMW A 2695)
Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), Storr's Rock, Lady's Cove, Evening, 1897 © Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. Acquired with the assistance of the The Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), 2004 (NMW A 26362)
Alfred Sisley Lady's Cove, Langland Bay, Morning, 1897 Private collection, New York © Photo courtesy of the owner