Le Pont de Suresnes
is a wonderful example of the beautifully loose brushwork of Signac’s early manner in which he embraced the stylistic and compositional strategies of the great Impressionists. The Impressionist preoccupation with light is something that would remain a mainstay in Signac’s work throughout his career. As Jean Cassou has written, "Light, in short, made [Signac] its favorite. Light gave him all that it had to give. It was his Muse, as well as his favorite object of study. It accorded so well with his magnanimous, open-hearted humanity that it provided him with a never-ending source of radiant images" (Jean Cassou, "Paul Signac" in Paul Signac
(exhibition catalogue), Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London, 1954, n.p.). The rich atmosphere and brilliant cascading light along the surface of the choppy waters of Le Pont de Suresnes
hints at what would soon become the defining attributes of the artist's work—a buoyant and exuberant color palette and a systematic application of small strokes and dots of colors (see fig. 1). In the present work the broad brushstrokes and vibrant colors illustrate his desire to capture the play of light and color in landscape, hinting at the landscapes to come when, with Georges Seurat, he fully developed the Pointillist style.
Painted in 1884, the present work depicts the small suburb of Suresnes on the western outskirts of Paris. These suburbs on the banks of the Seine and its tributaries, such as St. Cloud, Sèvres and Argenteuil, provided endless inspiration for the Impressionist painters. The first owner of the present work was Jean Ajalbert, a writer from Signac’s circle who, along with Gustave Kahn, Felix Fénéon and Paul Adam, was involved in the avant-garde debates of the time. Ajalbert praised the work of Signac in an article in La Revue moderne: “Signac proceeds from an ineffable sureness of eye and hand, with rousing good humor. You sense the artist is enamored of his art, loving nature where he looks to surprise its most fleeting aspects” (Jean Ajalbert, “Le Salon des impressionnistes” in La Revue moderne, Paris, June 20, 1886, n.p.).
In her catalogue raisonné, Françoise Cachin explains that this work was signed and dated at some point after its execution, which explains the discrepancy between the date the painting bears and the date recorded in Signac’s various handlists.