In 1880, Alfred Sisley, the only British citizen in the French Impressionist group, moved to a picturesque area near the Forest of Fontainebleau (forty-five miles southeast of Paris), where he had painted in his youth. In this region of rolling countryside marked by working waterways, Sisley responded to the "crisis of Impressionism" (a questioning of once-shared ideals that prompted major shifts in style and subject matter by Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro) with increasingly brilliant colors and more vigorous brushwork.
Here, Sisley used color to define forms, rather than (as Monet would do) to dissolve them. The scene captures one of the artist's favorite haunts: the port town of Saint-Mammes, sited at the confluence of the Seine and Loing Rivers. Sisley's preliminary sketch of the composition is preserved: with a few rapid strokes of the pencil, the artist captured the essential elements of the view, recorded its location, and noted the standard-sized artist's canvas ("toile de 15") on which he would paint the scene.
Preserved in its original frame, this striking landscape remained until 2011 in the same family that had purchased it from the artist's dealer. It has now found a permanent home at Amherst College through the thoughtful and generous planning of the late John C. Haas, Class of 1940, a chemical company executive, environmentalist, and philanthropist.