Canal of Overschie, 1905, Paul Signac, [23-12-42]
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Paul Victor Jules Signac 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. He followed a course of training in architecture before deciding at the age of 18 to pursue a career as a painter after attending an exhibit of Monet’s work. He sailed around the coasts of Europe, painting the landscapes he encountered. He also painted a series of watercolors of French harbor cities in later years.
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 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. Many of Signac’s paintings are of the French coast. He loved to paint the water.
Signac loved sailing and began to travel in 1892, sailing a small boat to almost all the ports of France, to the Netherlands, and around the Mediterranean as far as Constantinople, basing his boat at St. Tropez, which he “discovered”. From his various ports of call, Signac brought back vibrant, colorful watercolors, sketched rapidly from nature. From these sketches, 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 media. As well as oil paintings and watercolors he made etchings, lithographs, and many pen-and-ink sketches composed of small, laborious dots. 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.