Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Birthday guy - Paul Signac

Paul Victor Jules Signac (11 November 1863 – 15 August 1935) was a French Neo-Impressionist painterwho, working with Georges Seurat, helped develop the Pointillist style.

He came from a well-to-do family of shopkeepers. A visit to the exhibition of Claude Monet’s works organized by Georges Charpentier at the offices of La Vie moderne in 1880 decided him on an artistic career and encouraged him to try painting out of doors.

His early works, landscapes or still-lifes of 1882–3 show an Impressionist influence, particularly that of Monet and Alfred Sisley. In 1883 Signac took courses given by the Prix de Rome winner Jean-Baptiste Bin (1825–c. 1890), but they had little effect on his style.

1884 he was a founder-member of the Salon des Indépendants, where he met Georges Seurat who that year was exhibiting Bathers at Asnières (1884; London, N.G.).

Signac recognized Seurat's genius from the start and "benefited from [his] researches," as Seurat himself pointed out. This "exact technique" permitted him to give color a predominant role, and he remained faithful to it to the end. - From Marina Bocquillon-Ferretti, in "Paul Signac, 1863-1935"
 The formal evolution of Signac’s painting followed two directions. Never an abstract painter, he nonetheless elaborated an aesthetic in which the beauty of pure colour was an end in itself: ‘[colour] division is more a philosophy than a system’, he wrote. 

The bold juxtaposition of bright colours (e.g. Women at the Well, 1892; Paris, Mus. d’Orsay) gave way in 1905 to more muted harmonies where he applied the principles of interaction between coloured masses with greater freedom (e.g. Paris, Ile de la Cité, 1912; Essen, Mus. Flkwang). On the other hand, his brushstroke, which until 1890 was no more than a little dot designed to produce ‘optical mixture’ at a distance, grew larger and then became a square or a rectangle whose size was adapted to suit that of the picture, which was conceived as a form of mosaic (Venice, 1905; Toledo, OH, Mus. A.). In 1927 he used the opportunity of writing a work on Johann Barthold Jongkind to produce a remarkable treatise on watercolour.

If Seurat was the founder of Divisionism, Signac deserves credit for making its principles known. A friend of the chemist and colour theorist Charles Henry, he designed the illustrations for Henry’s "Cercle chromatique et rapporteur esthétique (1888)."

 In the background of his Portrait of Fénéon (1890; priv. col., see 1979–80 exh. cat., p. 211), with its spiralling forms of vividly contrasting colour inspired by a Japanese print, he applied Henry’s theories concerning the emotional effect of colour and linear direction.

Signac proved his ability as a theorist in his important work, D’Eugène Delacroix au néo-impressionnisme(1899), in which he defended the Neo-Impressionist aesthetic just as Fénéon was abandoning his activity as a critic. Like Fénéon, Signac sought to place Neo-Impressionism in a historical context, although his dogmatism and his desire for clarity gave his work the force of a manifesto. 

The book was one of the key sources of the renewed interest in Divisionism between 1900 and 1910; it was widely read by artists, not only in France, but also in Germany (where it was translated in 1903), and in Italy where the Futurists took up the Divisionist technique. The Fauves, and especially Matisse, who in 1904 was working with Signac at St Tropez, found in it the sanction for a freedom of colour that they would accentuate even more, as would Robert Delaunay and František Kupka.

Rodolphe Rapetti
From Grove Art Online

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