Wednesday 30 October 2019


This very agreeable painting, The Lane of Poplars at Moret by Alfred Sisley, has the distinction of having been stolen three times – in 1978, 1998 and 2007. Its home is the Musee des Beaux Arts in Nice, but the first time it was stolen it was in Marseilles on loan (it turned up a few days later in that city's sewers). Back home, it next fell victim to the museum's curator, who was convicted, with two accomplices, of the theft. Finally, in 2007, it was stolen in a raid on the gallery, only to be recovered the following year – in Marseilles again. The defendants in the trial for that theft boldly claimed that they were being used by the FBI in an undercover operation whose ultimate aim was to recover a much more important haul. The judge was having none of it, and jailed them all.
  Sisley, who was born on this day in 1839, was perhaps the most consistently Impressionist of all the impressionists, devoting virtually all his career to painting landscapes en plein air. Very nice they are too – in fact a little too nice, a little lacking in vigour and inclining (at least to modern eyes) to a kind of bland prettiness. But then, the same could be said for a good deal of Monet's output, hence his phenomenal popularity. Sisley was French-born, but to English parents, and he retained his British citizenship all his life. He also paid several long visits to England (and Wales, where he painted on the Gower peninsula). On one of these visits, he painted the bridge at Hampton Court, from above
and, interestingly, below –

This was the bridge from which I saw my mystery bird last year...

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