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Lady's Cove, Wales

Alfred Sisley

(1839 - 1899) | 909.1.48

Date : 1897 | Medium : Oil on canvas

Painted only two years before his death, this work is seen by some as Sisley's artistic last will and testament. At this late point in his life he displayed complete mastery of his art, producing paintings where no element is superfluous.

This is a surprising work; painted in a genre that was new to him, it shows the artist's imagination at play in its original composition. The overall scheme does not seem to use the sky as a starting point; rather, the composition is structured around strong diagonals of foaming surf, emphasising the power of the backwash where the waves crash onto a rock.

Despite already being seriously ill, Sisley put himself through the ordeal of working en plein air, painting the scene entirely from life.

He was not influenced by Japanese art in his approach to this subject, unlike his contemporaries. He used a limited palette of harmonious and delicately nuanced greens and purples, and fluid, smooth paint that enabled him to produce an effect of transparency – especially in the waves, blue towards the horizon, which take on yellowish tones as they roll onto the sandy beach in the foreground.

François Depeaux owned coal mines in Wales and took Sisley there; as a great admirer of the artist, Depeaux included an outstanding series of paintings by Sisley in his bequest to the museum.