Paul Signac is one of the principal neo-impressionist painters.

In 1884 Signac helped found the Salon des Indépendants in Paris. There he met Seurat and they developed their technique of painting with dots (or "points" in French) of color, which led to the name pointillism. Pointillism became the basis of the Neo-Impressionist movement.


As Signac explained, they used the pure impressionist palette but applied it in dots that were to be blended by the viewer's eye. What Signac called "muddy mixtures" were to be banished from painting and replaced by luminous, intense colors. Many of Signac's works are landscapes, inspired by the bright sunlight of southern France.


His life

Paul Victor Jules Signac was born in Paris on November 11th 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 exhibition of Monet's work. Through Armand Guillaumin he 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. Signac was a founding member of the Salon des artistes Indépendants together with Seurat, Dubois-Pillet and Redon.


Under this 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.


In 1886 Signac met Vincent van Gogh in Paris. In 1887 the two artists regularly went to Asnières-sur-Seine together, where they painted such subjects as river landscapes and cafés. Initially, Van Gogh chiefly admired Signac's loose painting technique. In March 1889, Signac visited Vincent van Gogh at Arles.


The next year he made a short trip to Italy, seeing Genoa, Florence, and Naples. Signac's prosperous shopkeeping family gave him financial independence.


Signac loved sailing and again began to travel in 1892, sailing a small boat to almost all the ports of France, to Holland, 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.


As president of the Société des Artistes Indépendants from 1908 until his death, Signac encouraged younger artists (he was the first to buy a painting by Matisse) by exhibiting the controversial works of the Fauves and the Cubists.


Personal life

On 7 November 1892 Signac married Berthe Roblès at the town hall of the 18th district in Paris; witnesses at the wedding were Alexandre Lemonier, Maximilien Luce, Camille Pissarro and Georges Lecomte.


In November 1897, the Signacs moved to a new apartment in the Castel Béranger, built by Hector Guimard, and a little later, in December of the same year, acquired a house in Saint-Tropez called La Hune; there the painter had a studio constructed, which he inaugurated on 16 August 1898.


In September 1913, Signac rented a house at Antibes, where he settled with Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange, his new girlfriend from about 1909 on, who gave birth to their daughter Ginette on 2 October 1913. In the meantime Signac had left La Hune as well as the Castel Beranger apartment to Berthe: they remained friends for the rest of his life. On 6 April 1927, Signac adopted Ginette, his previously illegitimate daughter.


His granddaughter, Françoise Cachin, was an art historian, well known for her books and catalogs on Signac.


At the age of seventy-two, Paul Signac died on 15 August 1935 in Paris from septicemia.


On August 18 he was buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.


His work

Unlike Seurat, he had virtually no formal training; he taught himself to paint by studying the works of Claude Monet and others.


Signac published "From Delacroix to Neo-Impressionism (1899)", explaining their theories.


Many of Signac's paintings are of the French coast. He loved to paint the water. 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. In watercolours Signac used the principle in a much freer manner.


The neo-impressionists influenced the next generation; Signac inspired Henri Matisse in particular. As president of the annual Salon des Indépendants, Signac encouraged younger artists by exhibiting the controversial works of the Fauves and the Cubists.


Paul Signac | His Life and work | Download as a PDF



Paintings by Signac in museum collections

Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum,
- Harbour of Saint-Tropez, 1895
- Railway junction near Bois-Colombes, 1885


Basel, Kunstmuseum , Switzerland


Besançon ; Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'archéologie
- Venise, la voile jaune,  Inventory number  Da.970.1.100 ; AM 4224 P(100)


Bloomington , Indiana University Art Museum, USA
- Bridge over the River Seine


Boston ; Museum of Fine Arts, USA


Bruxelles ; Musée des Beaux-Arts
- La Calanque (1906)


Chicago ; Art Institute, USA


Cologne, Allemagne , Wallraf-Richartz-Museum,
- Samois Studie Nr.8
- Fischerboote


Copenhague, Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark)


Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art, USA


Dallas Museum of Art, Texas, USA
- Le Pont des Arts, 1927


Essen, Germany, Museum Folkwang
- Pont sur la Seine, 1912


Glasgow ; Art Gallery and Museum
- Herblay. Coucher de soleil. Opus 206 (1889), huile sur toile


Grenoble ; Musée de Grenoble
- Le sentier de douane / Bord de mer, Saint-Tropez , Inventory number  MG 2225
- Saint-Tropez. Soleil couchant sur la ville. Etude, Inventory number  MG 1995-2-4


Harvard University Art Museums, Massachusetts


Helsinki, Finland, Valtion Taidemuseo (Finnish National Gallery)


Houston, Texas ; Museum of Fine Arts


Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana, USA


Liège ;  Musée d'Art moderne et d'Art contemporain
- Château de Comblat (1887)


Little Rock, Arkansas Arts Center, USA
- Antibes, le marché (The Market), 1919


Lodz, Poland, Muzeum Sztuki
- View of Golden Horn in Constantinople, 1907


Londres ; National Gallery
- Les Andelys, Les Lavandières (1886)


Madrid, Thyssen-Bornemisza MuseumPort-en-Bessin
- The Beach, 1884
- Paimpol, 1925


Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota, USA


Nantes ; Musée des Beaux-Arts
- Le phare d'Antibes, Numéro d'inventaire 3538 ; 949.2.2.Q


New York City ; Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA
- The Jetty at Cassis, Opus 198
   Date: 1889 , Accession Number: 1976.201.19
- Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde (La Bonne-Mère), Marseilles
   Date: 1905-6 ,  Accession Number: 55.220.1
- Lighthouse at Groix , Date: 1925 , Accession Number: 1998.412.3
- Evening Calm, Concarneau, Opus 220 (Allegro Maestoso)
   Date: 1891 , Accession Number: 1975.1.209
- The Town Beach, Collioure, Opus 165
   Date: 1887, Accession Number: 1975.1.208
- Place de Clichy, Date: 1888, Accession Number: 1975.1.210


New York City ; Museum of Modern Art, USA
- Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints,
  Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon in 1890. 1890
- Setting Sun. Sardine Fishing. Adagio. Opus 221 from the series The Sea, The Boats, Concarneau. 1891


Oklahoma, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, USA
- Coast Scene


Otterlo ; Musée Kröller-Müller, Pays-Bas
- Le Déjeuner (1885-1886), 111,8 × 186 cm, huile sur toile


Paris ; Musée Carnavalet
- Le moulin de la Galette, à Montmartre , Inventory number  CARP1938 ; P 1938
- Le pont des Arts , Inventory number  CARP2286 ; P 2286


Paris ; Musée Marmottan Monet
- Venice, 1908


Paris ; Musée d'Orsay
- FEMMES AU PUITS, ETUDE PREPARATOIRE 1 , Inventory number  RF 1979 2
- FEMMES AU PUITS, ETUDE PREPARATOIRE 2 (double face) , Inventory number  RF 1979 3 A

- FEMMES AU PUITS, ETUDE PREPARATOIRE 3 (double face), Inventory number  RF 1979 4 A-B
- FEMMES AU PUITS , Inventory number  RF 1979 5
- L'ENTREE DU PORT DE LA ROCHELLE,  Inventory number  RF 1982 59
- L'ENTREE DU PORT DE MARSEILLE,  Inventory number  RF 1977 324 ; 6725 (1920) ; LUX 1316 P
- LA BOUEE ROUGE , Inventory number  RF 1957 12
- LE CHATEAU DES PAPES A AVIGNON, Inventory number  RF 1977 323 ; LUX 968 P
- La berge ; Les Andelys, Inventory number RF 19996 6
- ROUTE DE GENNEVILLIERS , Inventory number RF 1968 3


Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Museum of Art, USA


Prague, Czech Republic, Jewish Museum
- L'Hirondelle Steamship (Seine near Samois), 1901 (item #60.608)
- River Landscape, 1927 (Inventory number  60.691)


Saint-Malo ; Musée d'Histoire de Saint-Malo
- Saint-Malo, le pardon des terre-neuvas , Inventory number  1975.7.2 ; 75.4.2

Saint Petersburg, Russia, Hermitage Museum
- Grand arbre de pin à St Tropez, 1892-1893


Saint-Tropez ; Musée de l'Annonciade
- ETUDE POUR"LE TEMPS D'HARMONIE" ,  Inventory number  1965 1 1
- Marseille, barques de pêche ou le Fort Saint-Jean , Inventory number  1936.29
- Saint-Tropez, l'Orage , Inventory number  1993.2.1
- Saint-Tropez, le quai , Inventory number          1942.1.1
- Saint-Tropez, les pins parasols aux Canoubiers, Inventory number  1942.1.2
- Vue de Saint-Tropez, coucher de soleil au bois de pins , Inventory number  1942.1.3


Strasbourg, Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg
- Antibes Le Soir, 1914


Tennessee ; Dixon Gallery and Gardens
- St. Briac, La Croix des Marins, 1885


Tokyo, National Museum of Western Art,
- The Port of Saint-Tropez, ca.1901


Victoria, Australia, National Gallery
- Gasometers at Clichy


Wuppertal, Germany, Von der Heydt-Museum




Signac, exhibition catalog, 1963
M.-T. Lemoyne de Forges et Mme P. Bascoul-Gauthier, Paris, Louvre, 1963


Signac & Saint-Tropez, 1892-1913, exhibition catalog 1992
J.-P. Monery, M. Ferretti-Bocquillon et Françoise Cachin, St Tropez, Mus. Annonciade; Reims, Mus. St-Denis; 1992


Signac, Paul, Exposition Fondation Pierre Gianadda, 2003.
Cachin, Françoise et Ferretti-Bocquillon, Marina; Martigny, 2003,  ISBN 978884430777


13 July 2013 - 27 October 2013, Exposition Signac, Les couleurs de l'eau
Musée Fabre de Montpellier




Françoise Cachin: Paul Signac, Paris, 1971


E. W. Kornfeld. Cat. raisonné de l'oeuvre gravé et lithographié de Paul Signac, Berne, 1974