Alfred Sisley and his Wife
All the Impressionists, with the possible exception of Sisley, painted portraits at some time or other and general characteristics--consistent with the nature of the Impressionist movement in other ways--were the unconventional and natural attitude they looked for and the freshness of color they introduced. Courbet and Manet both gave an example to the younger painters in France in the relish with which, as realists, they pictured contemporary dress and the young Renoir, when he painted his newly-married friend Sisley with his wife, was likewise emboldened to make much of the current fashion in men's and women's clothes, though endowing them with an attraction that came from his visual approach. The black and grey of Sisley's attire is well contrasted with the splendour of red and gold in Madame Sisley's spreading skirts but there is the further contrast to this finery in the intimate and affectionate gesture with which he offers and she takes his arm. It was already one of the Impressionist devices to place the figures in sharp focus against a blurred background. The background here gives a hint of the open-air portraits the group would paint some years later at Argenteuil, though the figures and faces are painted as yet with no attempt to suggest outdoor lighting.
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