Paul Signac (French, 1863–1935) was a painter and printmaker associated with the Neo-Impressionist movement, and known for applying distinct points of color to his canvases in accordance with color theories emerging at the time. Largely self-taught, Signac was first inspired to pursue his career while visiting an Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926) exhibition at La Vie moderne in 1880. Signac’s early works followed the tradition of Impressionism, but changed drastically after meeting Georges Seurat (French, 1859–1891) in 1884. Signac’s approach transitioned from an intuitive interpretation of the outdoors to a more rigorous examination of paint properties.

He was one of the first Parisian artists to settle in St. Tropez on the Mediterranean shore in 1892. Here, Signac’s brushwork became looser and his colors brighter, as he created an idealized vision of rural life that reflected his anarchist sympathies. From 1893 to 1895, he completed the painting Au temps d’harmonie, one of the best examples of Signac’s utopian aspirations, and his success in depicting pastoral scenes using his newly-developed Neo-Impressionsist brushwork. Signac consolidated his defense of Neo-Impressionism by writing D’Eugène Delacroix au Néo-Impressionnisme (1899), a text that influenced the work of the Futurists in Italy, and the Fauves in France. Although Signac’s work was not widely recognized at the start of his career, by the mid-1880s he had exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants—of which he was a founding member—as well as several other galleries.


Signac was born in Paris on November 11, 1863. From a very young age, he decided to become a painter. He made his début in the last Impressionist Exhibition and his work from that time shows distinctly the influence of Monet. He studied with Blin in 1883, and the following year was one of the founding-exhibitors at the first Salon des Indépendants, through which he met Seurat.
In the mid 1880s Signac and Seurat became close friends and the two collaborated in studying theories of painting and colour, in particular the division of light in its prismatic elements. In his own work, Signac took to Pointillism, juxtaposing tiny points of colour on the canvas in very precise relationships, so that the luminosity and depth of the composition is intensified, and each brush stroke acts to stimulate the eye’s perception of the overall effect. It was a highly scientific approach to painting in which the analytical study of colour and the controlled application of pigment became key factors. Based on these methods, he and Seurat developed the theories of Neo-Impressionism, which was explored in depth in Signac’s book From Eugène Delacroix to Neo-Impressionism (1889). Signac rallied a group of artists that included Pissarro and many others to the cause of Neo-Impressionism and spent a great deal of time and energy in promoting it.
At about the turn of the century, Signac’s work witnessed a decisive shift from the precise pointillist technique to a more fluid, less systematic brushstroke to create small rectangles. The bold tones and his use of broader, mosaic-like patches of colour are typical of his mature style. Bold, expressive brushstrokes that enliven the surface of a picture are typical of the artist’s later work.
In From Eugène Delacroix to Neo-Impressionism, Signac himself describes his process of colour composition in terms of contrasts: ‘the painter, starting from the contrast of two opposing colours, modifies and balances them across the spectrum until he meets another contrast and starts the process over again. So, working from contrast to contrast, he covers the canvas.’
In addition to his many other activities, Signac was a skilled and ardent sailor. Sailing along the coast from Brittany to Provence, he was one of the first artists to discover St. Tropez, which served as home base for his voyages to Holland, Corsica, and various forts along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts.
From these trips he often brought back bright, spontaneous watercolours in which he can explore the relationship between a port and its reflection in the water. His application of watercolour in short horizontal, vertical and diagonal strokes not only imitates the rippling water, but the intermingling colours fuse together to project a luminescent effect of dappled sunlight rippling through the waters.
He was elected President of the Société des Artistes Indépendants in 1908 and he held the post for twenty-six years, during which he worked energetically to promote art and encourage artists. He died in Paris in 1935. He is represented in the principal museums of modern art throughout the world.


Paul Signac, De Delacroix au néo-impressonisme, Paris, 1889, 1922
Paul Signac, Preface of the Exhibition Catalogue Seurat et ses amis, Paris, 1933
Georges Besson, Paul Signac, Paris 1935
Paul Signac, Fragments de son journal in Arts de France, Paris, January 1947
René Huyghe, in Les Contemporains, Tisné, Paris, 1949
Paul Signac, Fragments de son journal, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1949-1953
Catalogue de l’exposition rétrospective Paul Signac, Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne, Paris, 1951
Maurice Reynal, in Peinture Moderne, Skira, Geneva, 1953
John Rewald, in Dictionnaire de la peinture moderne, Hazan, Paris, 1954
Catalogue de l’expoisition rétrospective Paul Signac, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1964
Michel-Claude Jalard, in Le Postimpressonisme, in, Hre gle de la peinture, Vol. 18, Rencontre, Lausanne, 1966
Eberhard W Kornfeld, Peter A Wick, Catalogue Raisonné de l’oeuvre gravé et lithographié de Paul Signac, Verlag Galerie Kornfeld & Klipstein, Berne, 1974
In the Exhibition Catalogue for L’Art Moderne à Marseille: La Collection de Musée Cantini, Musée Cantini, Marseille, 1988
In the Exhibition Catalogue for Signac et la libération de la couleur,de Matisse à Mondrian, Musée de Grenoble, 1997