Denys Cochin, Paris (acquired from the artist, according to the artist's notebook)
Charles Laurent, Paris (acquired in 1887)
Mme Thérèse A. Laurent (by descent from the above)
Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above)
Mr. & Mrs. Benno C. Schmidt, New York (acquired from the above in 1964 and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 10, 2000, lot 2)
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Brussels, Ve Exposition des XX, 1888, no. 8 (titled Op. 163, Juillet 1887)
Paris, Pavillon de la Ville de Paris, 4e Exposition des artistes indépendants, 1888, no. 628 (titled Op. 163, Comblat-le-Château, Julliet 1887)
New York, 867 Madison Avenue (Christie, Manson & Wood), Van Gogh, Gauguin and their circle, 1968
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Nature as Scene -- French Landscape Painting from Poussin to Bonnard, 1975, no. 61
L'Art Moderne, Paris, February 5, 1888, pp. 41-45
Félix Fenéon, L'Art moderne, Paris, April 15, 1888, p. 123
Rodolphe Darzens, "L'Exposition des indépendants," La Revue moderne, May 10, 1888, p. 445
Marina Ferretti-Bocquillon, "Paul Signac au temps d'Harmonie 1895-1913," Signac et la liberation de couleur (exhibition catalogue),Westfälen Landsmuseum, Münster; Musée Grenoble & Kunstsammlungen, Weimar, 1996-97, p. 69
Francoise Cachin, Signac, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 2000, no. 149, illustrated p. 183
Signac's shimmering depiction of Comblat-le-Château and its the surrounding valley in the Auvergne possesses all the hallmarks of a great Divisionist composition. Composed primarily with a bold palette of blue, purple and green, the picture captures the atmosphere of a warm summer day as the trees cast their shadows across a sun-dappled pasture. When he painted this work in the summer of 1887, Signac was well-regarded as one of the leaders of and spokesperson for a new avant-garde style of painting known as Neo-Impressionism (1886-1890), a movement which had officially begun at the closing of the eight and final Impressionist group exhibition in Paris the previous autumn. It was at this exhibition that "works appeared for the first time that were painted solely with pure, separated and balanced colors, mixing optically according to a rational method" Signac would later recall (P. Signac, "Eugène Delacroix au néo-Impressionisme," 1899, reprinted in C. Harrison & P. Wood, Art Theory, 1900-1990, Oxford & Cambridge, 1992, p. 21). At the time, though, this rational method of painting was highly radical in its juxtaposition of opposing colors and its exceedingly detailed approach to rendering a large scene in dot formation. The present work, created when Signac's technique was at its freshest, epitomizes his bold stylistic innovation. This important canvas made its public debut the following year in Paris and in Brussels at two of the most significant exhibitions in the history of Neo-Impressionism.
Years after he painted the present composition, Signac continued to champion the pointillism and its great contribution to future generations of artists. He recognized that the Neo-Impressionist artists had paved a new way through uncharted artistic territory, and he concluded that the creative burden on future artists had been lessened by the discovery of these new painterly techniques: "In any case, they will not have repeated that which had been done before; they will have the risky honour of having produced a new way, of expressing a personal ideal. They can develop, but always on the bases of purity and of contrast; they knew the importance and charm of these too well ever to renounce them. Gradually freed from the hindrances of their beginnings, the technique of separation, which permitted them to express their dreams in colour, became more supple and advanced, promising even more fertile resources. And if there is no artist among them whose genius allows him to develop this technique further, at least they have simplified his task. The triumphant colourist has only to appear: his palette has been prepared for him" (P. Signac, Op. cit., p. 23).
The inscription Opus 163 refers to a numbering system devised by Charles Henry that related the rhythmic and harmonic principles of music and painting. Between 1887 and 1891, Signac used Henry's code, along with Whistler's precedent of musical titles, to identify his own paintings. The present work is closely related to another composition of the same year, Opus 160, in the collection of Musée des Beaux-Arts, Liège.
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