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  • Paul Signac
    Nov 11, 1863 – Aug 15, 1935
  • Place des Lices, Saint-Tropez - Paul Signac was One of the principal neoimpressionist French painters who, working with Georges Seurat, helped develop the pointillist style. Under his 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.
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Place des Lices, Saint-Tropez
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  • Place des Lices, Saint-Tropez

  • Paul Signac
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  • 1893
    Oil on canvas
    25 5/8 x 32 1/4 in. (65.4 x 81.8 cm)
    Carnegie Museum of Art, United States.

    Paul Signac's move to the tiny Mediterranean town of St. Tropez in 1892, the year after his friend and mentor Georges Seurat died, was motivated partly by his love of the sea and sailing but mainly by his weariness with the hectic life in Paris and by his desire to modify aspects of Neo-Impressionism. During the early 1890s, Signac began to find the effort of transcribing visual experience with the painstaking pointillist technique increasingly less satisfying. He wrote, "I shall no longer worry about nature. It is very difficult to paint properly from nature, where one is distracted by its harmonies, by the slightest reflection...I attach more and more importance to purity of brushstroke..." Place des Lices, St. Tropez comes from this important transitional period in Signac's art. This painting of majestic trees represents a shift in Signac's choice of motif, a departure from the constant motion of sailboats, clouds, and water to comparative stasis. Signac surely found satisfaction in the strong arabesque lines of the trees in the Place des Lices, and he used their patterns of shadows and filtered light to animate the painting's foreground. The angle of sight, reminiscent of earlier Impressionist vistas through allées of trees, establishes a tunnel-like view into the distance, beyond the shadows of the plaza. A single seated figure sets the painting's tone of tranquil solitude. The painting is filled with obvious but delightful contrasts—for example, between the seven large plane trees in the foreground and the single tiny cypress in the background. It also makes an association between the cypress and the seated man, each of which is a fulcrum for forms balanced on either side.

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Other paintings by Paul Signac:

La calanque (The bay)
La calanque (The bay)
Les Andelys, La Berge
Les Andelys, La Berge
Portrait of Felix Feneon, Opus 217
Portrait of Felix Feneon, Opus 217
Red Buoy
Red Buoy
Paul SignacWhen he was 18, Signac gave up architecture for painting and, through Armand Guillaumin, became a convert to the colouristic principles of Impressionism. In 1884 Signac helped found the Salon des Indépendants. There he met Seurat, whom he initiated into the broken-colour technique of Impressionism. The two went on to the method they called pointillism, in a fashion that came to be called Neo-Impressionism. They continued to apply pigment in minute dabs of pure colour, as had the Impressionists, but they adopted an exact, almost mathematical system of applying the dots instead of the somewhat intuitive application of the earlier masters. In watercolours Signac used the principle in a much freer manner. After 1886 he took part regularly in the annual Salon des Indépendants, to which he sent landscapes, seascapes, and decorative panels. Being a sailor, Signac traveled widely along the European coast, painting the landscapes he encountered. In his later years he painted scenes of Paris, Viviers, and other French cities.