Portrait Alfred Sisley, 1864
Oil on canvas, 81 x 65 cm
In 1862 August Renoir made the acquaintance of Alfred Sisley, Claude Monet and Frédéric Bazille in the studio of the Swiss Charles Gleyre in Paris, they being his fellow students. A genuine friendship developed among them which found expression in the form of fruitful collaboration. In 1863 and 1865 Renoir worked with his friends in the forest of Fontainebleau; at the beginning of 1866 he was there again with Sisley. In 1864, the 27-year-old Renoir paints his friend. Alfred Sisley, the son of a then still well-to-do English business man in Paris, is a young married man. He follows his inclinations, he paints on occasion or has himself painted, not least in order therewith to help his friend. This Sisley has not yet experienced the blows and disappointments of life; he is a relaxed and quiet participant in art, still more the English bourgeois than the French Impressionist he was to become. Renoir, on the other hand, had already attained mastery, having taken the Manet of the 1860s as his decisive model. The fact that this half-length portrait was commissioned by Sisley is shown by the provenance of the picture, in clear contrast to the picture of Sisley that Bazille paints – lying, smoking a pipe – and which is a genuine improvisation on the part of a painter friend.