The Small Meadows in Spring Alfred Sisley Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This painting shows a path through the woods on the bank of a river. A young lady stands at the left, and one can also see two people behind the girl; one is standing on the right side of the road, and the other is seated under a tree on the left side of the road.

The style of the painting is impressionism, an art movement that started in France in 1974 after some artists rejected the strict rules of fine art. The effect of impressionism comes out in The Small Meadows in Spring in the following ways:

  • Thick brushstrokes: The most distinguishing trait of an impressionist’s artwork is the painterly brushwork. Instead of carefully blended brushstrokes, this artist used thick sketch-like brush strokes. It comes out on this artwork as nothing appears distinct enough to be the focus of the painting.
  • Open-air: Impressionism focused on capturing the sensation of the fleeting moment. However, this was impossible to achieve inside a studio. As a result, the artists resorted to painting open-air images. Hence, landscapes, still life, daily leisure, and domestic scenes were the central depictions of the artworks inspired by this style of art. The Small Meadows in Spring is a perfect example of open-air paintings.
  • Focus on optics: The style is void of didactic, biblical, historical, or mythological subjects, which were the favourite themes of many paintings in the academic arts of Sisley’s day. Impressionists focused on the effects of light, such as shadows, the reflection of colours on surfaces, and the atmosphere. One can see in the painting shadows and the refection of the blue sky in the river.
  • Painters of the real: Inspired by Gustave Courbet, impressionist chose to paint images of real-life scenes. The Small Meadows in Spring depicts a young girl walking by what used to be a wooded path along the left bank of Seine river. The village appearing on the opposite bank is Champagne. Many people suggest that the little girl is Jeanne, Sisley’s daughter, who was then 12 years old.

In all his paintings, Sisley focused on representing the atmosphere while diminishing the importance of human figures. In The Small Meadows in Spring, the human figures in the picture have an incomplete finish. The same is evident in other works, such as A Street in Marly and The Seine at Bougival.