Paul Signac (1863-1935)
Paul Signac (1863-1935)

Le Sardinier, Locmalo (Les Tourelles)

Paul Signac (1863-1935)
Le Sardinier, Locmalo (Les Tourelles)
signed 'P Signac' (lower right)
oil on canvas
18 1/8 x 21 5/8 in. (46 x 55 cm.)
Painted in summer 1922
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, 8 May 1923).
Henri Canonne, Neuilly (acquired from the above, 15 May 1923); sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 18 February 1939, lot 49.
Mme Brotter, Paris.
Arthur Tooth & Sons, Ltd., London (acquired from the above, 27 September 1966).
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, 10 May 1968.
G. Lévy and P. Signac, Pré-catalogue, circa 1929-1932, p. 472 (illustrated).
F. Cachin, Signac: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 2000, p. 318, no. 553 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paul Signac: Peintures, cartons de tableaux, dessins, aquarelles, May 1923, no. 13 (titled Lornalo [sic], Les Tourelles).

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Lot Essay

When the Armistice was signed in November 1918, bringing the suffering and privations of the First World War to an end, Signac wasted no time in reclaiming his pre-war position at the forefront of the French avant-garde. A pacifist and humanitarian, Signac had been deeply distraught by the rapid escalation of the conflict, and he spent the war years in self-imposed isolation at Antibes, painting very little and absorbed in the study of Stendhal. In 1919, his spirits buoyed by the restoration of peace, he returned to Paris and settled at 14, rue de l'Abbaye with his companion Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange and their young daughter Ginette. He began to host a weekly open house in his new studio, which quickly became a center for lively artistic, literary, and political debate.
Although Paris remained the center of his professional and commercial orbit, Signac also traveled extensively after the war, as he had in the opening decade of the century. "He was a nomad, perpetually displaced, traveling throughout France, contemplating its varied landscapes and recording his impressions," Marina Ferretti-Bocquillon has written (ibid., p. 226). Although he had sold his beloved yacht, the Sinbad, in 1919 and now relied mainly on his Peugeot for transit, he continued to frequent the harbors and ports of the Midi and the Atlantic coast, and he became increasingly interested in boats and the details of their rigging. "I go there for the boats: for the color of the hulls and the sails," he explained. "A magnificent sight! They come from all over to sell fish, it's like a library of boats" (quoted in ibid., p. 271).
Signac painted Le Sardinier, Locmalo during the summer of 1922, which he spent with Jeanne and Ginette at Port-Louis, a fishing village in Brittany near Lorient. The artist was exceptionally pleased with the spot, writing to Félix Fénéon in mid-June that he had found five or six delightful anchorages within reach of his brushes. The present painting depicts a sardine boat with a distinctive lateen (triangular) sail crossing the bay of Locmalo, a sheltered inlet immediately east of Port-Louis. The time is just past dawn, and the sky is still streaked with pink and lavender; the turquoise bay is calm. The boat itself is rendered in deep, saturated shades of fuchsia, cobalt, and violet, which stand out against the pale sky and splinter across the water in a virtuoso play of tessera-like reflections. "If Signac's earlier Neo-Impressionism was an art of renunciation and restraint, his mature style is rich, luxuriant, and sensual," Leighton has explained. "The finest of his later canvases are impressive performances, with a few simple elements orchestrated into extraordinary optical effects. Freed from the burden of description, color takes on its own exuberant life" (ibid., p. 19).
The first collector of this painting was Henri Canonne, a Parisian pharmaceutical tycoon who assembled a celebrated collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces during the first half of the 1920s. The art critic Arsène Alexandre was so impressed by the quality of the Canonne collection that he devoted a book to it in 1930. The backbone of Canonne's collection was a group of over forty paintings by Monet, including seventeen of the artist's late Nymphéas. Canonne also owned no fewer than eight canvases by Signac.

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