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Flood at Port-Marly

Alfred Sisley

(1839 - 1899) | 909.1.44

Date : 1876 | Medium : Oil on canvas

Sisley settled in Marly-le-Roi in the spring of 1875 and stayed for three years, so he was there  to witness the great floods of 1876.

He had already painted floods several times, at Louveciennes and at Hampton Court in England, but in Marly he was able to devote more time to the subject and painted six canvasses.

A masterpiece of Impressionism, the Rouen painting depicts a wine merchant's house, À St Nicolas, resting on the encroaching flood waters of the Seine as if on a mirrored surface.

The house is being used as a landing stage and a gangway has been improvised to connect it to the town.  The building forms the last solid edge impinging on the waters: a fascinating subject for an artist bent on exploring light and reflections.

As always with Sisley, the composition is tightly structured with horizontal and vertical elements framing different parts of the landscape.  The building's mass in the middle works with the flat area of water stretching from the foreground to the horizon to give an effect of perspective of which the 17th century Dutch Masters would have been proud.

Sisley's extremely delicate touch with colour enables him to create a scene at once very nuanced yet full of contrasts, while the breadth of the brushwork is not detrimental to the painting's form – a point which differentiates him fundamentally from Monet.