Lot 48
  • 48

Paul Signac

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 USD
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  • Paul Signac
  • La Cité, Paris
  • Signed P. Signac and dated 1934 (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 23 5/8 by 28 3/4 in.
  • 60 by 73 cm


Ginette Signac, Paris (inherited from the artist)

Galerie Lucie Weil, Paris (acquired from the above in May 1972)

Sale: M. Motte, M. Bianchi & Mme J.J. Marquet, Sporting-Club d'Hiver, Monte Carlo, August 16, 1972, lot 50

Private Collection (acquired from the above and sold: Christie's, Paris, May 21, 2008, lot 58)

Acquired at the above sale


Paris, Grand Palais, 45ème Exposition de la Société des Artistes Indépendants, exposition du cinquantenaire, 1934, no. 4108

Berlin, Paris im Bild seiner maler XV-XX Jahrundert, 1954, no. 30


Françoise Cachin, Signac, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 2000, no. 609, illustrated p. 340


Excellent condition. Original canvas. Under UV light, there appears to be no evidence of retouching. The artist has painted a thin, blue boarder around the edge. A tiny paint loss is visible at the top edge of the canvas, about 9 inches from left, but this is covered by the frame.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

The vistas of Paris provided opportunities for Signac to exploit his talent at capturing ever-changing colors and light conditions.   The luminous La Cité, Paris exemplifies Signac's later divisionist technique, where dabs of paint are larger than the more tightly spaced dots of his earlier compositions.  The style had been pioneered by Georges Seurat, but through Signac became a highly expressive technique. The overall chromatic impact of these pictures was like that of a tiled mosaic, and the individualized color patches held an expressiveness and freedom that characterized many of the artist's most accomplished works. Signac described the process of pointillist color composition as: "The painter, starting from the contrast of two colors, opposes, modifies and balances these elements on either side of the boundary between them, until he meets another contrast and starts the process over again; so, working from contrast to contrast, he covers his canvas" (Paul Signac, D'Eugene Delacroix au Neo-Impressionnisme, Paris, 1899, p. 122). 

La Cité, Paris
depicts one of Signac's favorite subjects - the bridges of Paris that span the Seine.  The subject here is a view of from the Quai des Grands Augustins of the Pont Saint-Michel spanning the river from the Place Saint-Michel on the Left Bank to the Quai des Orfèvres on the Île de la Cité.  The majestic Cathedral of Notre Dame, with its two towers and rose window, is visible in the distance.  A detailed ink study for this painting is now in the collection of the Arkansas Art Center.  Marina Ferretti-Bocquillon wrote that "Signac liked to frame his views of ports and rivers with solid architectural elements, opposing the motion of the sea, sky and reflections with the stable forms of a wharf, lighthouse or tower. The artist first depicted a bridge in the early years of Neo-Impressionism. ... From then on, Signac regularly painted the bridges of Paris, choosing both older and more up-to-date constructions. He was partial to the steel framework of the Pont des Arts and the venerable stone arches of the Pont-Neuf" (Marina Ferretti-Bocquillon in Signac 1863-1935 (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001, pp. 273-74).

By the time the present work was executed, Signac had gained international admiration and prestige as a painter.  His mature paintings, of which the present work is among the finest, depict increasingly ambitious compositions.  Discussing the importance of Signac's mature works, John Leighton writes: "The late works of Signac are the culmination of many years of reflection, theorizing, and practice. ... In the best of his later works Signac combined the sensual legacy of his first pictures with the cool rationality of Neo-Impressionism to create an art of extraordinary chromatic richness and feeling. The intensity that he brought to all aspects of his craft remained consistent" (John Leighton in Signac 1863-1935 (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001, p. 20).