Paul Signac

Paul Victor Jules Signac (11 November 1863 – 15 August 1935) was a French Neo-Impressionist painter who, working with Georges Seurat, helped develop the Pointillist style. Paul Signac was born in Paris on 11 November 1863. When he was 18, Signac gave up the study of architecture for painting after attending an exhibit of Monet’s work, and, through Armand Guillaumin, became a convert to the colouristic principles of Impressionism.

In 1884 he met Claude Monet and Georges Seurat. He was struck by the systematic working methods of Seurat and by his theory of colors and he became Seurat’s faithful supporter, friend, and heir with his description of Neo-Impressionism and Divisionism method. Under Seurat’s influence he abandoned the short brushstrokes of Impressionism to experiment with scientifically-juxtaposed small dots of pure color, intended to combine and blend not on the canvas, but in the viewer’s eye, the defining feature of Pointillism.

He sailed on the Mediterranean Sea, the Mediterranean coast is a major theme across Signac’s paintings. Signac traveled widely along the European coast, painting the landscapes he encountered. In later years, he also painted a series of watercolors of French harbor cities. He left the capital each summer, to stay in the south of France in the village of Collioure or at St. Tropez, where he bought a house and invited his friends.

Paul Signac, Albert Dubois-Pillet, Odilon Redon, and Georges Seurat were among the founders of the Société des Artistes Indépendants. The association began in Paris 29 July 1884 with the organization of massive exhibitions, embracing as their motto, “Neither jury nor awards” (Sans jury ni récompense). “The purpose of Société des Artistes Indépendants—based on the principle of abolishing admission jury—is to allow the artists to present their works to public judgement with complete freedom”. For the following three decades their annual exhibitions flourished and set the trends in art of the early twentieth century.

Signac and Seurat went on to develop the method they called pointillism, which became the basis of Neo-Impressionism. They continued to apply pigment in minute dabs of pure colour, as had the Impressionists, but they adopted an exact, almost scientific system of applying the dots, instead of the somewhat intuitive application of the earlier masters. In watercolours Signac used the principle in a much freer manner. After 1886 he took part regularly in the annual Salon des Indépendants, to which he sent landscapes, seascapes, and decorative panels.

The Neo-Impressionists influenced the next generation: Signac inspired Henri Matisse and André Derain in particular, thus playing a decisive role in the evolution of Fauvism. Signac himself did not admire the style when it first appeared.

Having prospered well, his financial support of the arts was considerable. As donations, he sent regular cheques and made a gift of his works for five lotteries between 1895 and 1912. Signac’s 1893 painting, In the Time of Harmony originally was entitled, In the Time of Anarchy, but political repression targeting the anarchists in France at this time forced him to change the title before the work could be accepted by a gallery.

Paul Signac died from sepsis in Paris on 15 August 1935 at the age of 71. His body was cremated and was interred three days later, on 18 August, at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Paul Signac’s Cassis. Cap Canaille sold for $ 14,041,000 on 2007 at a Christies auction and Le Port au soleil couchant, Opus 236 (Saint-Tropez) (1892), was sold at a Christies auction for a the hammer price of $22.4 million.

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