C. Marquart (Krupp Factory), Essen (by 1908)
Léon Fischer, Antwerp
Mathilde Fischer, Antwerp and New York (by inheritance from the above July 1939; in storage in Antwerp circa 1939-1945)
Acquired by descent from the above
Cahier manuscrit, no. 25, titled La Corne d'or. Le Pont
Pré-catalogue, listed p. 382, titled La Corne d'or. Le Pont
Françoise Cachin, Signac: catalogue raisonné de l' oeuvre peint, Paris, 2000, no. 453, (not illustrated)
Painted after the turn of the last century, La Corne d'Or. Le pont is a brilliant example of the singular and innovative direction which the artist took following his active involvement with the Neo-Impressionists. When he painted the current work around 1907, Signac was further developing his artistic style beyond the strict tenets of Divisionism, which he had adopted from Georges Seurat in the 1880s (see fig. 2). He liberated his color palette and broadened his approach while retaining the main characteristics of Divisionism through his pointed application of brushstrokes. This mature style was characterized by a subtle exploration of the nuances of light combined with a chromatic richness, as demonstrated in this current depiction of the port of Constantinople.
In La Corne d'Or. Le pont, Signac focuses on the historically significant Golden Horn, a flooded estuary of the Bosphorus near the port of Constantinople. As in his other canvases of the Ottoman capital around this time (see fig. 3), the artist depicts in opulent colors the passing ships in the foreground. The skyline of Constantinople is easily recognizable in the background by the famous minarets of the mosque of Hagia Sophia (see fig. 4). With a dazzling palette that dominated the latter decades of his artistic career, Signac pays homage to the historical richness and significance of this port while bringing a fresh vivacity to its portrayal.
While this depiction of Constantinople was painted in 1907, Signac had begun travelling extensively by 1904 throughout Europe, visiting such major ports as Venice, Rotterdam and London. Unlike Monet, whose restless travels were occasioned by the search for new visual stimuli, Signac's travels were to a certain extent programmatic in intent. "At the turn of the century, Signac's paintings tended toward a decorative classicism, manifested by broad, well-considered and balanced compositions. His project for a series of views of famous ports, inspired by a similar series by Joseph Vernet, was realized in unusually large-scale pictures.... Conscious of working within a historic tradition, Signac no longer proclaimed a modernity justified by science but alluded to his predecessors, great marine painters like Turner and Claude Lorrain who celebrated light" (Signac (exhibition catalogue), Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais; Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001, p. 225).
The contemporary critic supporter of the Neo-Impressionists, Félix Fénéon, was aware of this same alliance with historical precedents when he wrote, "...chromatic opulence in Paul Signac's paintings decorates deliberate, audacious and rhythmic compositions which inevitably bring to mind the names of great masters such as Poussin and Claude Lorrain..." (quoted in Jean Sutter, ed., Neo-Impressionists, Greenwich, 1970, p. 60). The artist himself wrote on this topic when he published D'Eugène Delacroix au néo-impressionnisme in 1899. Signac concentrated on the relation between naturalistic depiction and decorative abstraction. As Michael Marlais writes, "he spoke of the triumph of abstraction over realism, the very underpinning of modern art. The concept of the decorative was very weighty indeed for the Neo-Impressionist painters because it separated them from all the illusionistic, realistic manners of the past. It made the Neo-Impressionists modern. Yet at the same time, it also connected them with the past..." (Michael Marlais, "Neo-Impressionism, Puvis de Chavannes, and the Decorative Aesthetic," Neo-Impressionism, Artists on the Edge (exhibition catalogue), Portland Museum of Art, 2002, p. 54).
Fig. 1, The artist on his boat, the Olympia
Fig. 2, Georges Seurat, La "Maria" à Honfleur, 1886, oil on canvas, The National Gallery, Prague
Fig. 3, Paul Signac, Constantinople (Corne d'or), 1909, oil on canvas, sold: Christie's, London, June 18, 2007, lot 10, $9,557,312
Fig. 4, Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (now Istanbul), A.D. 532-537
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