Oil on canvas
Totzen Lund, Copenhagen
Robert von Mendelsohn, Berlin
Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin (1928)
Max Goitein, Vienna (circa 1930)
Charles R. Lachman, New York
Ruth Mabee Lachman Greenleaf, New York (by descent from the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Paris, Grand Palais, Salon des Indépendants, 1923, no. 4300 (titled Venise)
Paris, Bernheim-Jeune & Cie., Paul Signac, Peintures, cartons de tableaux, dessins aquarelles, 1923, no. 8
P. F. 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in La France active, February 1923, p. 975
René Chavance, 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in La Liberté, February 9, 1923, pp. 1-2
Gustave Kahn, 'Les Indépendants', in La Lanterne, February 9, 1923, p. 3
Louis Paillard, 'A travers le Salon', in Le Petit Journal, February 9, 1923, pp. 1-2
François Thiébault-Sisson, 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in Le Temps, Febraury 9, 1923, p. 3
Waldemar George, 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in La Gazette des sept arts, no. 3, February 10, 1923, p. 8
Georges de Pawlowski, '34e Salon des Indépendants', in Le Journal, February 11, 1923, p. 4
G. Rémon, 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in Le Radical, February 12, 1923, p. 2
Philippe Le Huby, 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in Le Peuple, February 12, 1923, p. 2
Charles Fegdal, 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in Bonsoir, February 14, 1923, p. 2, Bulletin de la vie artistique, no. 4, February 15, 1923, illustrated p. 85
Robert Rey, 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in Le Crapouillot, February 16, 1923, pp. 12-23
Toussaint Martel, 'Aux Indépendants', in Montmartre La Chapelle, February 24, 1923, p. 2
Félix Danvers, 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in Le Magazine pittoresque, March 1, 1923, p. 82
Georges Denoinville, 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in La Revue des Beaux-Arts, March 1, 1923, p. 6
Gustave Kahn, 'Art. Exposition des Indépendants', in Mercure de France, March 1, 1923, pl. CLXII, illustrated p. 515
E. J., 'Chronique artistique', in Les Nouvelles littéraires, March 3, 1923, p. 2
François Guy, 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in La Démocratie nouvelle, March 3, 1923, p. 2
Eugène Soubeyre, 'Le Salon des Indépendants', in La Nouvelle Revue, March 15, 1923, p. 184
Georges Turpin, '34e Exposition des artistes indépendants', in La Revue littéraire et artistique, April 1923, p. 10
Gaston Lévy, 'Pré-catalogue', circa 1932, illustrated p. 476
Claude Roger-Marx, 'Paul Signac: le néo-impressionnisme', in L'Amour de l'art, no. 2, February 1933, illustrated p. 37
Françoise Cachin, Signac. Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, Paris, 2000, no. 558, illustrated p. 320 (as measuring 65 by 81 cm)
La Dogana, Venise was inspired by Signac's visits to Italy's floating city, a trip which resulted in some of the most luminous and successful works of his career. It depicts a view along the Grand Canal, with the customs building, La Dogana, visible in the distance. Signac had planned his first visit to Venice in the summer of 1903, his fascination with the city partly influenced by John Ruskin's popular The Stones of Venice, but postponed his travels until the following year. He arrived there at the end of March 1904, staying until May, and producing a large number of watercolours during his sojourn. Several of Signac's Venice oils were exhibited at the 1905 Salon des Indépendants, where they were greatly admired by both the public and the critics. Louis Vauxcelles wrote at the time: "nothing is more vibrant, more atmospheric, than the shimmering Venice of M. Signac." He visited Venice again in 1908, and in 1920 was elected to be the commissioner for the French pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
Marina Ferretti-Bocquillon wrote that "the City of the Doges had everything to offer the avid museum-goer Signac had become in his search for new subject matter. He visited an impressive number of churches and museums, always delighted when he found in the masterpieces of the past traces of an instinctive use of the principles of color division and contrast. Between museum visits he enjoyed the spectacle of the city and executed a large number of watercolors [...] Signac was enchanted by the play of light, water, and sky, and the color of the monuments. Clear architectural forms dissolved in the atmoshpere in his compositions, which were often centered on boats, gondolas, or bragozzi with colorful sails" (M. Ferretti-Bocquillon, in Signac (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001, p. 233-234).
Situated at the entrance to the Grand Canal, the handsome colonnaded building named Dogana di Mare, dates from the second half of the seventeenth century. Its tower is crowned by two Atlases supporting a bronze globe. Atop the orb or sphere, another statue - Fortuna - acts as a weathervane by holding a garment, or perhaps a ship's rudder, to the wind. In his book of travel writings Italian Hours, published in 1909, Henry James described the Dogana in Venice: 'The charming architectural promontory of the Dogana stretches out the most graceful of arms, balancing in its hand the gilded globe on which revolves the delightful satirical figure of a little weathercock of a woman. This Fortune, this Navigation, or whatever she is called - she surely needs no name - catches the wind in the bit of drapery of which she has divested her rotary bronze loveliness. On the other side of the canal twinkles and glitters the long row of the happy palaces which are mainly expensive hotels. There is a little of everything everywhere, in the bright Venetian air, but to these houses belongs especially the appearance of sitting, across the water, at the receipt of custom, of watching in their hypocritical loveliness for the stranger and victim.'
The subject of a busy port, framed by remarkable architecture in the background, provided Signac with a constant source of inspiration throughout his extensive travels. The present composition is framed by the quay on the left, which takes the viewer's eye into the distance, dominated by the Customs building in the center. Signac has used a vibrant palette, with the buildings, colorful sails and the dramatic sky with a pink cloud all beautifully reflected on the water surface. By the time he painted the present work, Signac had developed his pointillist technique so that his dabs of paint had become larger than the more tightly-spaced dots of his earlier compositions. The overall chromatic impact of these pictures was like that of a tiled mosaic, and the individualised color patches held an expressiveness and freedom that characterized many of the artist's most accomplished works.
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