Lot 17
  • 17

Paul Signac

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 GBP
2,045,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Paul Signac
  • Antibes. Petit Port de Bacon
  • oil on canvas
  • 54.5 by 64cm.
  • 21 1/2 by 25 1/8 in.


Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris

Dr Alexandre Roudinesco, Paris (acquired from the above in 1920)

Galerie A. Weil, Paris (acquired from the above in 1961)

Saul Horowitz, New York (acquired from the above in 1961)

Galerie Druet, Paris

Dr Armando Illanes (sold: Sotheby’s, London, 2nd December 1970, lot 26)

Edgardo Acosta Gallery, Beverly Hills (purchased at the above sale)

Sale: Maître Blache, Versailles, 31st May 1972, lot 76

Private Collection, Europe (purchased at the above sale. Sold: Christie’s, Paris, 21st May 2008, lot 55)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner 


Paris, Beaux-Arts et La Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Les étapes de l'art contemporain: Seurat et ses amis, la suite de l'impressionnisme, 1933-34, no. 93


Françoise Cachin, Signac. Catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre peint, Paris, 2000, no. 515, illustrated p. 307 (incorrectly illustrated under no. 516)

Catalogue Note

Throughout his career, Signac’s enduring passion was the depiction of water and the visual drama of water-borne activity. The pointillist style he employed with great élan was perfectly suited to the ever-changing colours and light conditions found on the Mediterranean coast. In Antibes, Petit Port de Bacon the rapid application of impasto taches of paint beautifully depicts the dappling surface of the harbour and the radiance of the sun. In his mature works Signac had developed a complete mastery of the chromo-luminarist technique which he and his friend Georges Seurat had developed before the end of the nineteenth century. As Signac’s career developed, so his rounded spots of paint became larger, squarer and much thicker. The overall chromatic impact of these pictures was like that of a tiled mosaic, and the individualised colour patches held an expressiveness and freedom that characterised many of the artist's most accomplished works.

The remarkably rich composition of the present work is framed by a serpentine tree and shows the bay outside the small port the Pointe de Bacon in Antibes. This view is taken by looking north across the bay to Antibes, and the famous outlines of the Château Grimaldi and the towers of old town have been delicately picked out in bright tones than contrast with the soft lilac chosen to depict the rest of the background. Signac moved to Antibes in 1913, remaining confined to the south coast of France throughout the war with his new partner Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange. His output was severely curtailed by the dismal circumstances in Europe, but nonetheless he continued to develop his style and during this time he painted a number of important works including Antibes, Petit Port de Bacon and Antibes. Soir (fig. 1) which show his interest in the expressive effect of colour.

A highly disciplined theoretician, Signac regularly experimented with applying his aesthetic theories to his own works, sometimes working on several paintings with similar subjects and arrangements at the same time in order to explore the effect of different treatments. In early 1917 Signac painted three canvases of the port at Bacon in Antibes with identical compositions, distinguishing each work with a different palette. One canvas painted in January 1917 was purchased directly from the artist the same year by the Finnish collector Herman Frithiof Antell on behalf of the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki for 1000 francs (fig. 2). In his own papers, Signac commented on the difference between the present work and the Helsinki version: ‘Two canvases, the other [the present work] has the same composition, but the mass to the left in shaded green takes place of the orangey red, and the yellow sky to the left fades towards green in the upper right and towards violet in the lower right. The tower blends into the ramparts’ (quoted in F. Cachin, op. cit., p. 307).

Discussing the development of his style, 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’ (J. Leighton in Signac (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001, p. 20).