Tuesday, 10 November 2015


Today we celebrate the birth of Paul Signac, who was born in Paris 11 November 1863. He followed a course of training in architecture, but in 1881, after attending an exhibit of Claude Monet's work, he turned to painting.

ROAD TO GENNEVILLIERS 1883, Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Few changes in style can be as obvious as that of Paul Signac as displayed in these two paintings. In "Road to Gennevilliers", painted in 1883, Signac shows a tendency towards impressionist treatment of colour and an obvious fascination for brushwork, but by 1886 in "Comblat le Chateau, Le Pre" he has plunged deeply into Pointillism.

COMBLAT LE CHATEAU, LE PRE, 1886, Dallas Museum of Art
The change came about when In 1884 he met Georges Seurat and was struck by his systematic working methods and colour theory Signac became Seurat's faithful follower, friend and penned scholarly descriptions of Neo-Impressionism and Divisionism. He abandoned Impressionism and short brushstrokes 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.

I've had my moments with pointillism and in some of my paintings I still tend towards the style, as in my recent pet portrait "Pepsi Cola". It's a radical theory and a difficult practice. It's a great personal achievement when you know you've got it right.

If you want to give it a go, it's important to paint standing up at an easel and have plenty of room to step back. Actually, it's great exercise because you will walk miles in the course of completing even a small painting.

Although he was an impressionist, some of the most awesome paintings I've seen were created by Claude Monet with minute dots and dabs of thick paint, sometimes forming troughs half a centimeter deep as he went back time and time again to modify. This can be seen in his "Haystacks" series. His tiny marks are barely visible in print, but are awe inspiring when seen closeup.

Pointillism took it much further, making the dots part of the design. In pointillism the dots are bold and available for everyone to see.

More about Paul Signac here.