Paul Victor Jules Signac was a French neo-impressionist painter who, working with Georges Seurat, helped develop the style of pointillist. He was born in Paris on November 11, 1863. He started out as an architect before deciding that he should be a painter at eighteen years of age. He sailed around the coasts of Europe, and painted the landscapes. He also painted the cities in France in his later years. Paul Signac met Claude Monet and Georges Seurat in 1884. He was struck by the systematic working methods of Seurat and his color theory. He became Seurat’s faithful supporter.
Under his 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. This style was called pointillism. Many of Signac’s paintings are of the French coast. Signac owned a house in St. Tropez and he left the capitol of France each summer to go down to it or to stay with friends in other cities. In March of 1889, he visited Vincent van Gogh in Arles. The next year he made a trip to Italy to see Genoa, Florence, and Naples.
Signac loved to sail and began to travel in 1892. He sailed a small boat to almost all the ports of France, Holland, and around the Mediterranean as far as Constantinople. He based his boat at St. Tropez, which he said he “discovered”. From his various ports, Signac brought back vivacious, interesting watercolors, sketched promptly from nature. From these sketches came something unusual of Signac. He painted large studio canvases that are carefully worked out in small, mosaic-like squares of color, quite different from the tiny, variegated dots previously used by Seurat.
Signac himself experimented with various types of media. This list includes oil paintings and watercolors. He made etchings, lithographs, and many pen-and-ink sketches composed of small, painstakingly crafted dots. The neo-impressionists influenced the next generation. Signac inspired Henri Matisse and Andre Derain in particular, playing a decisive role in the evolution of Fauvism. As president of the ‘Societe des Artistes Independants’ from 1908 until his death, Signac encouraged the younger artists by exhibiting the controversial works of the Fauves and the Cubists. He was the first to buy a painting by Matisse.
On November 7, 1892 Signac married Berthe Robles at the town hall of the 18th district in Paris. There were many famous witnesses at their wedding. In November 1897, they moved to a new apartment in the Castel Beranger that was built by Hector Guimard, A little later, in December of that year, they acquired a house in Saint- Tropez called La Hune. There, the painter had a vast studio constructed, which he inaugurated on August 16, 1898. In 1913, Signac separated from his wife. In September 1913, Signac rented a house at Antibes. This is where he settled with Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange.
She then gave birth to their daughter Ginette on October 2, 1913. In the meantime, Signac had left La Hune as well as the Castel Beranger apartment to go to Berthe. They remained friends for the rest of his life. On April 6, 1927, Signac adopted Ginette, his previously illegitimate daughter. When he was seventy-two, Paul Signac died on August 15, 1935 in Paris from septicemia. His body was cremated and, three days later, August 18, buried at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Septicemia is a disease of the blood.
Some of his well-known paintings are: The Pine, Saint Tropez and Port St. Tropez. Some other interesting things about Signac are still yet to be said. Beginning in the 1890s, Signac wrote articles on art. He also wrote the book From Delacroix to Neo-Impressionism, a document on Neo-Impressionism that placed the movement in a historical context. Signac was a passionate sailor and enjoyed traveling. He spent summers in various parts of France, from Brittany to the Mediterranean Coast. He also made trips to Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands. In 1891, saddened by the eath of Seurat, he moved to Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera.
Signac was also committed to radical political affairs in pursuit of a more democratic future. Like many artists of his generation, he joined the anarchist movement. His painting “The Wreckers”, showing a laborer working with a pickaxe, may refer to his wish to destroy older ways of life in order to establish better societal conditions. His later career in his old age caused him to have to paint from memory rather than being able to go and see more places. He used more loose brush strokes and more broad touches of paint. He began to produce numerous watercolor painting and drawings.
Signac was a mentor and friend of Henri Matisse who grew up to become a prosperous and successful artist. Signac was supported by several different art critics and became an art collector. Although, he did not receive acceptance from the larger art world or the public until the 1900s. There are still some more interesting facts left about Paul Signac. Did you know that his father, Jules Jean-Baptiste Signac, was a harness and saddle maker? His grandfather was, too. As a child, his family lived above the shop run by his father. As a child, Signac was described as delicate and high strung, as said by his father.
During the Franco-Prussian War, he was sent to northern France to live with his maternal grandmother and her second husband. His father died of tuberculosis when Paul was in college. Soon after his father’s death the family business was sold, thus releasing Signac from having to maintain it. This gave him freedom to travel. He did not have to maintain the shop so he did not have anything keeping him from exploring the great unknown. The year 1880 was pivotal for Signac. In April, he isited an Impressionist exhibit and began making sketches after a painting done by Edgar Degas.
Gauguin spotted him and threw Signac out of the building. Later that year, due to the urging of his mother and grandfather, he reentered the College Rollin to study mathematics, but withdrew after the first term. By the end of the year, he had begun painting and also taken up what became a lifelong hobby. This hobby was boating. Signac owned thirty-two sailing crafts overall, throughout his life. Almost a year later, Signac, along with six or seven other friends, formed an informal literary society. They named it ‘Les Harengs Saurs Epileptiques Baudelairiens et Anti-Philistins’.
This translates to The Epileptic, Baudelarian, Anti-philistine Smoked Herrings’. The year of 1882 was definitely a busy one. In February and March, he published two essays in the journal Le Chat Noir, and that summer he began his habit of escaping Paris for the countryside or the sea to paint. His first excursion was to his maternal grandmother’s home in Guise where he painted The Haystack’. Paul Signac subsequently designated this as his “first picture. ” Most importantly, Signac met Berthe Robles in this year, his first wife. They were married ten years later.
Signac became his own artistic self over the next few years as he grew to know many artists better. He grew close friendships with many different types of artists. Many of which, shared the same types of art preferences. His connections with people like Pissarro came in handy when he was invited to art exhibits about impressionism. On September 19, 1886, the term “neo- impressioniste” was used for the first time by Feneon in a review of the second exhibition of the Independents. However, this term did not come into common use until the year 1892. Signac as on the exhibition’s hanging committee and exhibited ten paintings.
Another exhibition led to more appreciation of Signac’s work. Although Seurat was given first place among the Neo-Impressionists, critics had begun to appreciate Signac’s contribution to the movement. On March 29, 1891, Georges Seurat died suddenly in Paris, France. The death of his friend thrust Signac into a primary position in the Neo-Impressionist movement. Pissarro had still predicted the end of pointillism without Seurat. Indeed, Signac abandoned the technique in the early 20th century. An interesting fact about Signac and Berthe s that they permanently separated in 1913, but they never divorced.
The separation was good-natured and the pair remained in contact with each other. Signac provided his wife with financial support. Signac then began to live with his earlier mentioned lover Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange. She gave birth to their daughter, Ginette-Laure-Anais on October 2, 1913. Less than a year after, in August 1914, World War I commenced. Signac was deeply affected by the war and painted very little. In 1917, he realized that he had only painted seven pictures in three years, despite the fact that in 1915 he was named as a ainter to the department of the navy.
The annual exhibitions held by the Societe des Artistes Independants were postponed. Signac himself rejected a call to resume the exhibitions while wartime was going on. By the time the war ended, Signac was involved in taking care of all of his finances, specifically the welfare of Jeanne and their daughter. In December 1919, he entered into an agreement with three art dealers. He turned over his artistic output to the dealers at the rate of twenty-one oil paintings per year. The contract was renewed annually until 1928, when it was renegotiated.