This painting is being sold by Christie's pursuant to an agreement with the heirs of Mr. and Mrs. Ferenc Chorin.
This painting will be included in the new edition of the Sisley catalogue raisonné by François Daulte being prepared by the Comité Alfred Sisley.
Sisley contributed 17 paintings to the third Impressionist group exhibition that opened in April 1877. This was the first time that the painters exhibited under the name "Impressionist," a term that had been coined mockingly by the critic Louis Leroy during the first group show in 1874, but now seemed acceptable for lack of a preferable alternative. This time there were 250 paintings by 18 artists, and the participants hoped that there would be greater public acceptance of their work. However, the press remained hostile, and an auction of the paintings held at the conclusion of the exhibition brought results that were as disappointing as they had been in previous years.
The times had now become very lean indeed. In the fall of 1877 Sisley moved from Marly-le-Roi, near the Seine northwest of Paris (where he had painted a fine series of flood scenes the year before), to the old porcelain-making town of Sèvres not far away. A short time later he was evicted from the house he had rented and his friend and patron Georges Charpentier, the publisher of Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant, helped him to find new quarters in town. Another friend, the pastry chef and restaurant owner Georges Murer, hung Sisley's landscapes in his home in an effort to interest guests in the painter's work.
Sisley was known for his resilient, optimistic temperament, and never doubted his abilities and the value of his technique. He stayed on course during the late 1870s, and worked tirelessly at bringing out the latent possibilities in his technique. In paintings of this period, such as in the present work, a greater sense of freedom and improvisation came to characterize his handling. His application of paint grew looser and more varied, ranging from broad, loose brush strokes to smaller marks. He now mixed fewer of his tones before hand, and built up areas of pigment straight from the tube, resulting in more vibrant chromatic harmonies and contrasts.
The composition in the present painting is based on horizontal bands that mark a road in the foreground and a field in the middle ground (punctuated by the presence of a figure), while a distant band of hills outline the horizon. The simplicity of the elements in this scene allows the artist to concentrate on the treatment of light and atmosphere. Sisley depicts an early fall day under high clouds. The light is subdued, but still luminous, and one can feel in the air the last warmth of summer mingling with the growing coolness of autumn.
La meule de paille
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated 'Sisley 77' (lower right)
Budapest, Muscarnok (Hall of Exhibitions), First Exhibition of Art Works Taken into Public Ownership, 1919, Room VI, no. 27.
Budapest, The Countess Eva Almásy-Teleki Institute of Art, Exhibition of French Art Works in Private Hands, 1940, no. 210.
15 x 22 in. (38.1 x 55.9 cm.)
Ödön Faragó, Budapest; sale, Ernst Museum, Budapest, 1935, lot 227.
Mr. and Mrs. Ferenc Chorin, Budapest (acquired at the above sale; lost possession in 1943-1945).
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 15 November 1988, lot 3.