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Uphill Road in Sunshine

Alfred Sisley

(1839 - 1899) | 909.1.46

Date : 1893 | Medium : Oil on canvas

A path rising towards the horizon is a recurrent theme in Sisley's work, but in Uphill Road in Sunshine it is more significant than ever. The symbolism of the image has its origins in the Dutch seventeenth century tradition, particularly Hobbema. The road connecting the foreground to the far distance draws the viewer powerfully towards the centre of the canvas, inducing a vision that goes beyond the merely visible.

The structure of space is always of fundamental importance in Sisley's work and here he displays his virtuosity in rendering the escarpment of the hill on the right and the abrupt slope on the left without recourse to the slightest vertical line. Only rounded forms – the millstone on the ridge on the left, the copse of trees towards the bottom of the vale, the two central trees – suggest the differences in level.

Differences in plane, from the foreground backwards, are rigorously rendered through a succession of shadows, an invisible tree casting its shade across the road, small figures far away, and the church steeple peeping over the distant horizon. Sisley also applies layering to his sky, writing: 'The sky is made up of planes, just like the ground.'

White clouds scudding across an intensely blue sky are offset by the orange and ochre tones of a landscape dulled by harsh afternoon sun, giving the scene the sort of meditative, silent quality that is the trademark of Sisley's best work.