signed P. Signac and indistinctly dated 86 (lower right)
Painted in August 1886, this work is listed under no. 138 in the artist's Cahier d'opus.
Anatole de Monzie, Paris (acquired from the artist)
Thence by descent to the family of the present owner in 1947
The Artist's Handlist (Cahier d'opus), no. 138: listed as: Les Laveuses
The Artist's Handlist (Cahier manuscrit), listed as: Les Andelys. Les Laveuses
A. de Sancy, 'Exposition des Indépendants', in Le Moniteur des Arts, Paris, 1st April 1887, mentioned p. 98
Robert Bernier, 'Les indépendants', in La Revue Moderne, Paris, 20th April 1887, p. 36
Paul Adam, 'Les Artistes indépendants', in La Revue Rose, Paris, May 1887, p. 142
Gaston Lévy, 'Pré-catalogue', circa 1932, illustrated p. 135
'Exposition Seurat', in Beaux-Arts, Paris, 5th January 1934, mentioned p. 3
Edouard Sarradin, 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in Le Journal des débats, Paris, 7th February 1936, p. 3
Raymond Escholier, La Peinture française, XXe siècle, Paris, 1937, discussed p. 4 (titled Laveuses aux Andelys)
Jean Leymarie, L'Impressionnisme après 1873, Lausanne, 1955, vol. II, illustrated in colour p. 93 (titled The Seine at les Andelys)
Françoise Cachin, Signac, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, Paris, 2000, no. 124, illustrated p. 175
Les Andelys. Les Laveuses was painted in the summer of 1886, a pivotal year not only in Signac’s art, but also in the development of the Neo-Impressionist movement. One of the principal protagonists of the Pointillist and Divisionist techniques, Signac was also the movement’s leading theorist. His belief in the laws of physics as the basis of use of colour in the Neo-Impressionist method of painting was published in 1899 in his book D’Eugène Delacroix au Néo-Impressionnisme, which earned him the status of the central disseminator of the group's aesthetic theories. By the early months of 1886 Seurat finished his now celebrated painting Une dimanche après-midi à l’Ile de la Grande Jatte (fig. 1), which caused a sensation when exhibited at the Eighth (and final) Impressionist Exhibition in May 1886. It was also in 1886 that Signac painted his first Divisionist compositions, and that the term ‘Neo-Impressionism’ was first published in an article written by the critic Félix Fénéon.
It was this revolutionary chain of events that set the stage for Signac’s works executed during the summer of 1886. In June of that year Signac went to Les Andelys, a village on the river Seine near Rouen, some hundred kilometres from Paris, characterised by steep white chalk cliffs partially covered in vegetation. He was later joined by Lucien Pissarro, and the two artists spent the summer there painting the local scenery. Signac executed ten oil paintings of Les Andelys (figs. 2 & 3), four of which, including the present work, were shown at the following year’s Salon des Artistes Indépendants. The other three from this group now belong to major international museums. Signac was involved in establishing the first Salon in 1884, and from then on exhibited there annually. It was while organising the first Salon that he met Georges Seurat, Charles Angrand and Henri Edmond Cross, all of whom were to become key figures in the Neo-Impressionist movement.
When exhibited at the 1887 Salon, Signac’s four views of Les Andelys, including the present work, received wide critical acclaim, and were praised for their extraordinary luminosity, and the complexity of composition the artist was able to achieve using small dabs of pigment. The critic Paul Adam wrote that the dots in Signac’s paintings had become more refined and varied, while Félix Fénéon commented on the four canvases of Les Andelys: ‘Les plus récentes, elles sont aussi les plus lumineuses et les plus complètes. Les couleurs s’y provoquent à d’éperdues escalades chromatiques, exultant, clament. Et coule la Seine, et coulent dans ses eaux le ciel et les verdures riveraines’ (quoted in Signac (exhibition catalogue), Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1963-64, p. 15).
Among Signac’s paintings of the 1880s, the ones executed at Les Andelys are among his brightest and boldest in his treatment of colour, inspired by the rich and varied colouration of the local scenery. Their characteristic combination of blue, green and orange tones renders these works even brighter and more luminous than Signac’s depictions of the Mediterranean coast executed during his first trip to Collioure in 1887. Painting a scene from everyday life, in Les Andelys. Les Laveuses the artist depicts four washerwomen at the bank of the Seine in the foreground. The curving line of the river takes the viewer’s eye towards the village nestled along its bank, the picturesque houses and hills behind them richly reflected on the water surface. The viewpoint Signac chose for the present work is closest to that of Les Andelys. Côte d’Aval (fig. 2) executed in the following month; both compositions are dominated by two triangles of blue and orange, with the houses lined horizontally along the upper part of the canvas. While in the present work this arrangement is rendered with a wonderful fluidity, in the later work Signac subjected the landscape to a more rigorously scientific approach, abandoning many of the details in order to create a composition divided into geometric units. Colouristically, the image in the present work is based on the contrast between the orange of the foreground and of the houses, and the cooler blue and green tones of the hills and bushes. This primary colour combination is echoed in numerous details throughout the work, with the complementing hues creating a brilliant, jewel-like effect.
Fig. 1, Georges Seurat, Une dimanche après-midi à l’Ile de la Grande Jatte, 1884-86, oil on canvas, The Art Institute, Chicago
Fig. 2, Paul Signac, Les Andelys. Côte d’Aval, September 1886, oil on canvas, The Art Institute, Chicago
Fig. 3, Paul Signac, Les Andelys. La Berge, August 1886, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
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