Lot 38
  • 38

PAUL SIGNAC | La Passe de Marseille

3,000,000 - 5,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Paul Signac
  • La Passe de Marseille
  • Signed P Signac (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 32 by 25 3/4 in.
  • 81.5 by 65.4 cm
  • Painted in 1910-11.


Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris

François Fonson, Brussels (acquired in January 1912 and sold: Galerie Giroux, Brussels, December 7, 1922, lot 66)

Devos Collection, Brussels (acquired in 1922)

M. Coffe (acquired by 1923)

Galerie Druet, Paris

Josef Rosensaft, New York (acquired by 1958 and sold: Sotheby’s, New York, March 17, 1976, lot 49)

Acquired at the above sale


Brussels, Palais du Cinquantenaire, Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles, 1910, no. 306

Paris, 27ème Exposition de la Société des artistes indépendants, 1911, no. 5638 (titled Marseille, La Passe)

Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Peinture moderne du groupe III, 1923, no. 6 (titled Marseille, La Passe)  

Vevey, Musée Jenisch, De Monet à Chagall, Collection Rosensaft, 1958, no. 49, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Le Brick à Marseille)    


Georges Lecomte, “La Vie artisitique: Le Néo-impressionisme, Henri-Edmond Cross et Paul Signac” in Le Matin, Paris, April 20, 1911, mentioned p. 5

Adolphe Tabarant, “Le Salon des Indépendants” in Le Voltaire, Paris, April 21, 1911, mentioned p. 2

Eugène Tardieu, “Le Salon des Indépendants” in L’Echo de Paris, Paris, April 21, 1911, mentioned p. 2

Adolphe Tabarant, “Les Salons de 1911. Société des Indépendants” in L’Action, Paris, April 21, 1911, p. 2

La Dépêche, Paris, April 22, 1911, mentioned p. 3

Le Petit Journal, Paris, April 27, 1911, mentioned p. 2

Georges Anquetil, “Les Indépendants” in L’Essai, Paris, May 3, 1911, mentioned n.p.

Marcel Clavie, “Le Salon des Indépendants” in Le Courrier du Centre, Paris, May 4, 1911, mentioned n.p.

Paul-Napoléon Roinard, “Salon des artistes indépendants” in Le Républicain, Paris, May 8, 1911, mentioned n.p.

René-Jean, “Les Salons de 1911” in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, July 1911, mentioned p. 62 Lucie Cousturier, Paul Signac, Paris, 1922, illustrated pl. 3 (titled Marseille, le brick italien)

“Une enquête pour pour rénover la tapisserie” in Bulletin de la vie artistique, Paris, April 15, 1923, illustrated p. 171

Marc Sandoz, “Signac et Marquet à La Rochelle, Les Sables d’Olonne, La Chaume, Croix de Vie. Influence du site sur leur oeuvre. Oeuvres inédites 1911-1933” in Dibutade, vol. IV, Paris, 1957, illustrated p. 13

François Daulte, Connaissance des Arts, Paris, 1959, illustrated p. 79

John Sutter, Les Néo-Impressionnistes, London, 1970, illustrated p. 127 (titled Brig at Marseilles)

Françoise Cachin, Signac, Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, Paris, 2000, no. 488, illustrated p. 298

Catalogue Note

Throughout his career, Signac's enduring passion was the depiction of water. The Pointillist style was perfectly suited to the ever-changing colors and light conditions found around this subject. In La Passe de Marseille the rapid application of impasto beautifully depicts the dappled surface of the sea. As Signac mastered the Pointillist technique in his mature works his confident application of paint increased, allowing for larger dots of color that are more loosely spaced than those of his earlier compositions. The style had been pioneered by Georges Seurat, in paintings such as Entrée du Port d’Honfleur, but through Signac’s development became a highly expressive technique. The overall chromatic impact of these pictures was like that of a tiled mosaic, and the individualized color patches held an expressiveness and freedom that characterized many of the artist's most accomplished works. Signac described the process of Pointillist color composition: "The painter, starting from the contrast of two colors, opposes, modifies and balances these elements on either side of the boundary between them, until he meets another contrast and starts the process over again; so, working from contrast to contrast, he covers his canvas" (P. Signac, D'Eugene Delacroix au Néo-Impressionnisme, Paris, 1899, p. 122).

Signac’s focus on the port of Marseille began in 1905, when he first visited this picturesque site on the southern coast of France. During his travels, he noted his impressions in watercolor or ink before developing his colorful canvases in the studio. The artist revisited this bustling fishing town many times, in order to capture on canvas the brightly colored fishing boats as they sailed into the harbor. In La Passe de Marseille, Signac has depicted a magnificent ship entering the port at the end of the day, in an idealized account of the active harbor.

Discussing the development of his style, John Leighton writes: “The late works of Signac are the culmination of many years of reflection, theorizing and practice... in the best of his later works Signac combined the sensual legacy of his first pictures with the cool rationality of Neo-Impressionism to create an art of extraordinary chromatic richness and feeling. The intensity that he brought to all aspects of his craft remained consistent” (J. Leighton in Signac (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001, p. 20).