If you couldn’t attend the Signac exhibition that took place in 2022 at the Musée d’Orsay, don’t panic! We have prepared a selection of some of the works exhibited and they include those belonging to the painter-collector Paul Signac!
Signac exhibition: Paul Cézanne, La Plaine de Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône, around 1880
The painter Paul Signac (1863 – 1935), founder of Pointillism with Seurat, was a self-taught painter who was interested in the Impressionists from an early age. He bought his first painting by Cézanne when he was only 21! The first work in his collection of 450 paintings, this canvas entitled La Plaine de Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône, remained his favorite all his life and he would never part with it.
The master of impressionism: Claude Monet, Apple tree in bloom at the water’s edge, 1880
An exhibition devoted to Claude Monet, which Signac visited in 1880, gave the young man the desire to launch his own career as a painter.
For financial reasons, Paul Signac could not afford his first Monet painting until 1932, towards the end of his life. It is thus this year that the painter-collector acquires the painting of an Apple tree in bloom at the water’s edge. His ruined gallery owner could not pay him, so Signac chose this painting by Monet in exchange for the balance of the debt.
Theo Van Rysselberghe, En mer, portrait of Paul Signac, 1896
The painting, pictured below, is a magnificent portrait of Paul Signac, painted by his friend Theo Van Rysselberghe, whom he met in Brussels in 1887 at an exhibition. The painter adopted the technique of the “divided brushstroke” the following year and became a fervent representative of neo-impressionism in Belgium.
The painting En mer, a portrait of Paul Signac, is a superb example of pointillism. The two painters sailed together between Sète and Saint-Tropez in 1892. It was 4 years later that Van Rysselberghe painted this portrait which he offered to Signac as a souvenir of their crossing.
Signac exhibition: Camille Pissarro, The Herd of Sheep, Eragny-sur-Epte, 1888
In 1885, Signac met Camille Pissarro, whom he in turn introduced to Georges Seurat. The impressionist painter, over 50 years old, was interested in other young painters in his color research. He also adopted the “divided brushstroke” as we can see in the painting presented in the Signac exhibition: The Herd of Sheep, Eragny-sur-Epte.
Thanks to Pissarro, Signac, and Seurat, the “co-founders” of Pointillism, were exhibited at the Impressionist exhibition of 1886 and thus became known.
Musée d’Orsay temporary exhibition: Georges Seurat, painting Chahut, 1889
Paul Signac befriended his colleague Georges Seurat after their meeting in 1884. If Signac admires Monet and is inspired by him, Seurat imagines a technical evolution. Indeed, he began to paint with small touches of color in 1885 with the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Signac adopted the same technique which he defined as “neo-impressionism”.
When his colleague died, at the age of 31, Paul Signac became the leader of this movement and did not cease to highlight the work of Seurat. He acquired many works by the artist, including the sketch of Chahut, presented at the Signac exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay.
Signac Collector: Vincent Van Gogh, Two Herrings, 1889
Among the surprises of the collection of the artist Paul Signac we found a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. Signac frequented him in Paris from 1887 and the two men were both attached to color and painted together on the banks of the Seine. When the Dutch painter was interned in Arles, Signac went to see and hear from his friend. To thank him for this visit, Van Gogh offered him the painting Two Herrings, in memory of the day they had spent together.
Exhibition Paris Musée d’Orsay: Lucie Cousturier, Nature morte fruits, 1903
Lucie Cousturier became interested in painting at a very young age and became a student of Paul Signac. The latter praised her “talent [which] leads her to the most dazzling colorations”, as illustrated by the painting presented below: Nature morte fruits. The artist, considered as a neo-impressionist of the second generation, is also an admirer of Seurat and owns the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, mentioned earlier in this article
Temporary exhibition Paul Signac : Avignon, Evening, Château des Papes, 1909
We could not end this article on the Signac exhibition without presenting a painting by the artist himself! We chose the painting Avignon, Evening, Château des Papes, exhibited at the Musée d’Orsay, for the warmth of its colors and also in order to illustrate the technique of the “divided touch”. The second photo in the slideshow below, showing an enlargement of the lower right corner of the painting, allows us to better understand this technique of pointillism, also called by Signac “divisionism”.
For lovers of the impressionist movement and the Musée d’Orsay, don’t hesitate to read our article on the emblematic works of the Musée d’Orsay, which will surely make you want to return to this famous Parisian museum!
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