- Paul Signac
Clipper (Opus 155)
- Signed P. Signac and dated 87 (lower left); inscribed Op. 155 (lower right)
- Oil on canvas
Mme Gustave Kahn, Paris
Galerie Le Barc de Boutteville
Ernst Chausson (acquired from the above and thence by descent and sold: June 5, 1936, lot 40)
Pierre Delebart, Paris
Edward Speelman, London (by 1960)
Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above on July 20, 1960 and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 11, 1999, lot 115)
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Brussels, 5e Exposition des XX, February 1888, no. 2
London, The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre), Important XIX & XX Century Paintings and Sculpture, 1975, no. 13, illustrated in color in the catalogue
London, The National Gallery, Seurat and the Bathers, 1997, no. 90, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Richard Thomson, "Van Gogh in Paris: the Fortifications Drawings of 1887," Jong Holland, no. 3, The Hague, September 1984, illustrated p. 5
Françoise Cachin, Signac, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 2000, no. 141, illustrated p. 180 and in color p. 95
The present work was painted in 1887 at a moment in Signac's career when the loose brushwork of his early Impressionist manner was being enriched with a systematic application of dots of colors, similar to the technique used by his colleague Seurat. This innovative technique, known as pointillisme, marked the beginning of Signac's career as a Neo-Impressionist.
Located to the northwest of Paris, the suburb of Asnières where the present work was painted, became a favored subject for avant-garde landscape painters in the 1880s. For example, Seurat's major paintings, Une baignade, Asnières and Une dimanche d'été à l'Ile de la Grande-Jatte were painted in the vicinity of Asnières. Indeed, John Leighton and Richard Thomson have observed that Asnières was "the site of Seurat's first large painting, [which] became for the next few years a key setting for experimental landscape painting" (John Leighton and Richard Thomson, Seurat and the Bathers (exhibition catalogue), The National Gallery, London, 1997, p. 137). In 1887 the parallel bridges at Asnières also appeared in paintings by van Gogh (The Bridges, Asnières, 1887, Zürich, Foundation E.G. Bührle Collection, see fig. 1) and Emile Bernard (Iron Bridges, Asnières, 1887, New York, Museum of Modern Art).
Significantly, Signac painted three views of the same area, Seine at Asnières, 1885, the present work of 1887 and Bridge at Asnières (The stern of the Tub in the sun), 1888. He also made a sketch of this very composition on the occassion of its exhibition in Brussels in 1888 (see fig. 2). Considering these three compositions in oil, John Leighton and Richard Thomson have remarked, "Spread over three years, as they are, this trio of paintings represent motifs within a few hundred meters of each other. Signac's loyalty to the site is equalled by the consistency with which he represented it. All three pictures render industry and leisure in some kind of balance, setting off sailing boats and riverside bistros against the gasworks, factories and busy bridges of these suburbs. In essence, this is a polarity similar to that employed by Seurat in the Bathers" (John Leighton and Richard Thomson, ibid., pp. 139-140).
The inscription, Op. 155, refers to the artist's numbering system to classify his paintings using the Latin 'Opus' (work). This practise stemmed from his interest in Charles Henry's studies of the rhythmic and harmonic analogies between music and painting, and Signac systematically employed this method of identification between 1887 and 1891.