Signac, Paul



Impressionism: partaker of the 8th ‘impressionist’ exposition:

Paul Signac


a faithfull divisionist


Was Paul Signac an Impressionist?
At first Signac would paint in a more ‘impressionist’ style, influenced mostly by Guillaumin and Monet. Early 1886, under influence of Seurat, Signac started to paint in a divisionist style. He would apply pure colours on the canvas in complementary colours, influenced also by new scientific insights on colour and perception. Divisionism is also called scientifique Impressionism and also Neo-Impressionism (but this also has a broader meaning). The first years he mostly applied small dots of paint, also called Pointillism.  After the death of Seurat in 1891, Signac would become the most important spokesman of Divisionism.  1895 onwards he would use mosaic like brushstrokes; this would make his paintings more vibrant. Untill his death in 1935 Signac would go on painting in a strict divisionist style. Even while others, like his good friend Théo van Rysselberghe (R68), would let go of a strict application of Divisionism.

Signac only joined the 8th ‘impressionist’ exposition:
At the 8th ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1886 Signac showed 18 works (catalogue numbers 184-204; R2,p446/7). The exhibited works depicted mostly city views and seascapes. The style was partly impressionistic and partly pointillistic. He often used bright colours and juxtaposed brushstrokes. Many art-critics reviewed his works (R90II,p252/3). Henry Fèvre reviewed ‘The colours palpitate and the burning sun shimmers, making the atmosphere vibrate’ (R2,p471). Darzens reviewed ‘Signac works with broader strokes than Seurat and obtains wonderful effects of light playing off rippling water’. (R2,p472). Jules Vidal reviewed ‘His paintin g is all shimmering light, … his water ripples with broken sunlight’ (R2,p472). Paul Adam reviewed ‘his paintings demand attention with their intense colours’ (R2,p473). Geffroy complained that ‘his contrasts are sometimes too hard’ (R2,p439+473). Berthe Morisot approved Signac (and Seurat) their partaking, but later on her husband Eugène Manet opposed this idea (R39,p300).
See link for an impression of his exhibited pictures in 1886. See link for an account.


Paul Signac at other exhibitions:
Signac never exhibited at the Salon (iR1). He (probably) was rejected in 1884 and exhibited with the ‘Groupe des Artistes Indépendants‘ starting 1884/05/15 (see above). 1884/06/11 Signac is co-founder of the ‘Société des Artistes Indépendants’ together with Seurat, Charles Angrand (1854-1926), Henri Edmond Cross (1856-1910), Albert Dubois-Pillet (1846-1890) (R39,p299). 1884/12/10 was the start of the 1st exhibition of the ‘Salon des Indépendants‘ (see above; R39,p299). The second one started 1886/08/21; Signac would show several works he had shown at the 8th ‘impressionist’ exposition (R106,p419). Signac was often an important organiser, namely of the retrospectives of Seurat in 1891 and Van Gogh in 1905 and a major retrospective in 1926; he had been member of the board, vice president and from 1934-41 he was the chairman (R39,p41+46+299). He would exhibit every exhibition from 1884-1935; in 1936 there was a posthumous exhibiton held for him (R106,p419-421).
In March + April 1886 six works of Signac were exhibited in New York at the exhibition ‘Works in oil and pastel by the Impressionists of Paris’ organised by Durand-Ruel (see below; R39,p300;R106,p419). 1888/01/30 he exhibited with les XX in Brussels (R39,p302+325); he would do so again in 1890+91+92+93. He would also exhibit at it’s successor the ‘Salon de la Libre Esthétique‘ in 1894+95+96+1900+04+08+10+13 (R39,p305+326). Signac exhibited at the Expositions des peintres Impressionnistes et Symbolistes in 1891+92+93 (R39,p304;R106,p420;iR4). And at the ‘Salon d’Association pour l’Art’ in Antwerp in 1892+93 (R39,p304+325). 1891/12/02 Signac did organize the 1st Neo-Impressionist exhibition (R39,p304).
There have been several solo exhibitions, namely at the gallery of Bernheim-Jeune. See the account for more info and the link for the exhibited pictures.


D’Eugène Delacroix au néo-impressionnisme:
At the end of 1884 Signac would meet Michel-Eugène Chevreul (1786-1889), a chemist and colour theoretician. It was his ‘introduction to the science of colour’ (R39,p299/300). August 1885: Charles Henry published ‘Introduction à une esthétique scientifique’ (R39,p300). 1886/09/19: Fénéon for the first time used the term ‘néo-impressionniste’ (see portrait below; R39,p301). In 1890 Charles Henry published ‘Applications de nouveaux instruments de précision (cercle chromatique, rapporteur et triple-décimètre esthétique) à l’archéologie’ and also ‘Éducation du sens des formes’, both with plates and graphics by Signac (see below; R39,p303). In 1895 Charles Henry published ‘Quelques aperçus sur l’esthétique des formes’ with drawings of Signac (aR8;R39,p305).
April 1896 Signac began writing his book ‘D’Eugène Delacroix au néo-impressionnisme’ (R39,p306). 1898/10/22 a first offprint was distributed in German (R39,p308). June 1899 this book was published by ‘éditions de la Revue Blanche’ in Paris and reissued in 1911 and 1921 (aR5;R39,p308+312+316). In 1903 and 1910 there were publications in German (R39,p309).


Paul Signac as an artist:
Signac ‘preferred to draw on the banks of the Seine rather than in a studio at the (R39,p298). Since the Summer of 1882 Signac started his habit to paint in the countryside or by the sea during the Summer months (R39,p299). In the summer of 1883 his style became more impressionistic (R29,p299). March 1886 Signac painted his first divisionist paintings (R39,p300).
Around May 1884 Signac met Monet; the friendship would last till Monet’s death in 1926 (R39,p299). Also in May 1884 Signac met Seurat and would become one of his few friends (R39,p299). Around this same time he met Guillaumin, ’the painter I admired most when I was 20′ (R39,p299). In 1885 Signac met Pissarro and soon after introduced Pissarro to Seurat (R39,p300). December 1885 he started a correspondance with Lucien Pissarro (R39,p300). June 1886 Signac and Lucien painted together in Les Andelys (R39,p300). 1887/02/02 Signac met Théo van Rysselberghe, who would become his friend (R39,p301). In 1887 Signac met Vincent Van Gogh; in April and May they painted together in Asnières (R39,p301). March 1887 Signac met Émile Bernard (R39,p301). In the Summer of 1887 he painted in Collioure (see below;R39,p302); in the Summer of 1888 in Portrieux (R39,p302). 1889/03/23 Signac visited Vincent van Gogh in the hospital in Arles (R39,p302). 1889/04-07 Signac painted in Cassis (R39,p302). 1889/08-09 he painted with Luce at Herblay (Val-d’Oise) (R39,p303). 1889/09/09 Pissarro distanced himself from Neo-Impressionism: ‘Certainly at first sight the Neo-Impressionists seem meager, lusterless and white – particularly Seurat and Signac.'( R39,p303). Signac attended a dinner in honour of Gauguin’s departure for the Pacific (R39,p303). 1891/03/31 Siganc attended the funeral of Seurat; later on he is involved with the inventory of Seurat his works (R39,p304).

In 1892 Signac started to work in Saint-Tropez (see above) and the Mediterranean (R39,p304). June 1893 he stopped calling his works ‘opus…’ and working en-plein-air (R39,p305). March 1896 Signac travelled with Théo van Rysselberghe through Holland (R39,p306); that summer they painted in Saint-Tropez and surroundings (R39,p306). 1898/04/01 Signac visited Lucien Pissarro in London (R39,p307). July 1898 a disagreement started with Van Rysselberghe about the neo-impressionist principles (R39,p307). October 1898 Signac painted with Cross in Marseilles (R39,p308). February 1904 Signac met Matisse, who would visit him in Saint-Tropez, from July till late September, where Matisse started his famous ‘Luxe, calme et volupté‘ (iR3) and stayed at ‘La Ramade’ (R39,p310;R176,p196). Early October Henri Manguin would stay at ‘La Ramade’ (R176,p196;R39,p308). In the summer of 1905 Matisse, Manguin and also Charles Camoin and Albert Marquet visited Signac (R39,p310). January 1906 Ker-Xavier Roussel lived close to Signac; Maurice Denise visited them (R39,p310). 1910/05/16 death of Henri Edmond Cross, who lived near Saint-Tropez in Saint-Clair (R39,p312). 1915 onwards Signac had frequent meetings with Bonnard (R39,p314-22). December 1916 he visited Renoir in Cagnes (R39,p315). From 1918 till 1927 Signac met irregularly Matisse (in Nice) (R39,p315-320). From 1919 till 1921 he had meetings with Monet (R39,p316-7). 1926/04/01 Charles Angrand died, whom Signac often had met and written (R39,p319).

April and May 1904 Signac painted in Venice (see above; R39,p310). April and May 1906 Signac painted in Holland (see above; R39,p310). March till May 1907 Signac visited Constantinople (R39,p311). In 1909 he visited Lucien Pissarro in London (R39,p311). In 1910 Signac stopped recording his works; his output slowed down abruptly; he painted more and more watercolours (R39,p311). From 1921 till 1923 Signac would stay several times in ‘Les Andelys‘ (R39,p317-8).


Paul-Victor-Jules Signac, a short biography:

  • 1863/11/11: Paul-Victor-Jules Signac was born in Paris, 33, rue Vivienne (2nd arrondissement) (R39,p297)
  • 1875: the family moved to 12, avenue Frochot (9th arrondissement) (R39,p297)
  • 1880/03/17: his father died; later on Paul would move with his mother to Asnières, 42bis, Rue de Paris (now: Rue Maurice Bokanowski) (R39,p297/8+90)
  • 1882: met Berthe Roblès (1862-1942; see below) (R39,p298)
  • 1883: took a studio in the Rue Berthe (see below; R39,p299)
  • 1892/05/06: Arrival at Saint-Tropez in his boat the ‘Olympia’ (see above); Théo Van Rysselberghe did accompany him; rented ‘La Ramade’, a furnished cottage situated above ‘la plage des Graniers‘ (R39,p304/5).
  • 1892/11/07: Signac married Berthe Roblès; Georges Lecomte, Alexandre lemonier, Maximilien Luce and Camille Pissarro were witnesses (R39,p304).
  • 1894/06/02: Signac took refuge in Belgium because of a wave of arrests of people in anarchist circles (R39,p305).
  • 1895: rented a larger villa ‘La Hune’, also above ‘la plage des Graniers’ (R39,p305).
  • 1897/11: moved to ‘Castel Béranger’ built by Hector Guimard at 14, Rue La Fontaine, (16th arrondissement, Paris (R39,p306).
  • 1897/12/27: bought ‘La Hune’ (R39,p307).
  • 1898/01/15: supported Zola in the Dreyfus affair (R39,p307).
  • 1910: began a relationship with Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange (1877-1958) (R39,p312).
  • 1911/10/25: Signac is appointed ‘Chevalier de Legion d’Honeur‘ (R39,p312).
  • 1911/11/16: death of his mother(R39,p312).
  • 1913/09/23: moved with Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange to a villa at Cap d’Antibes; he didn’t divorce Berthe Roblès and would divide his time between Antibes and Saint-Tropez (R39,p313-5).
  • 1913/10/02: birth of Ginette-Laure-Anaïs, their daughter (R39,p313).
  • 1919/12/01: moved with Jeanne to 14, Rue de l’Abbaye (6th arrondissement), Paris (R39,p316).
  • 1931/June: bought a small house in Barfleur(R39,p320).
  • 1933/12/30: Signac is promoted to commander of the Legion of Honour(R39,p322).
  • 1934/Spring: Ginnette Signac married Charles Cachin (R39,p322).
  • 1935/05/15: Signac died in Paris, 71 years old (R39,p323).
    Many of his early works were still in his studio when he died (R106).

My main sources are the Catalogue Raisonné of Cachin (2000=R106), Ferretti-Bocquillon (2001=R39), Moffett (1986=R2), Berson (1996=R90), Walther (2013=R3), Denvir (1993=R5) and xx. For other general references (=R) see. My main sources (for the pictures) from the internet are the Athenaeum (iR2), Wikimedia (iR6), mutualart (iR11) and Google images (iR10). For other references to internet sites (=iR) see. For other additional references (=aR) see below. See links for practical hints and abbreviations and for the subscription of the paintings.

For further reading:
Adam, Paul: Soi. Paris (?), 1886. (The minor character Vibrac in this novel is inspired on Signac.) (R39,p300).


Additional references:

  1. (many pictures; not secured; many irritating advertisements; limited information)
  2. “Paul Signac.” In Database of Modern Exhibitions (DoME). European Paintings and Drawings 1905-1915. Last modified Mar 3, 2021.  =iR261; overview of contributions of Signac in exhibitions and auctions from 1905-1915 (50 entries)
  3. (overview page referring to data about Paul Signac; =iR19)
  4. (PDF catalogue of a solo exposition of 80 works at Bernheim-Jeune in 1907, including a preface by Paul Adam and reproductions; =iR19)
  5. (PDF new edition book ‘D’Eugène Delacroix au néo-impressionnisme’ by Paul Signac ; =iR19)
  6. (overview page referring to data about Paul Signac in the Bibliothèque National de France; = iR26)
  7. (overview page referring to data about Paul Signac; =iR40)
  8. (online version book ‘Quelques aperçus sur l’esthétique des formes’ by Charles Henry, Paris, 1895; =iR40)
  9. (online version book by Signac about Jongkind, Paris, 1927; =iR40)
  10. (online version exhibition catalogue by Ferretti-Bocquillon (Metropolitan, 2001=R39=M23)
  11. (article on Signac in Saint-Tropez and his influence on others by Isabel Droge 2023/04/05)


Recommanded citation: “Impressionism: Paul Signac, a faithfull divisionist. Last modified 2024/01/30.”