PAUL SIGNAC (1863-1935)
PAUL SIGNAC (1863-1935)
PAUL SIGNAC (1863-1935)
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PAUL SIGNAC (1863-1935)
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PAUL SIGNAC (1863-1935)

Calanque des Canoubiers (Pointe de Bamer), Saint-Tropez

Details
PAUL SIGNAC (1863-1935)
Calanque des Canoubiers (Pointe de Bamer), Saint-Tropez
signed and dated ‘P Signac 96’ (lower left); signed again, inscribed and dated ‘P. Signac. Une calanque S Tropez-1896' and inscribed again 'St Tropez’ (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
25 3/4 x 32 in. (65.3 x 81.3 cm.)
Painted in 1896
Provenance
Hermann Pächter, Berlin (1839-1902), by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Ludwig Wilhelm Gutbier (1873-1951), Dresden and later Munich & Rottach-Egern, until at least 1947.
Kleemann Galleries, New York.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 16 May 1979, lot 264.
Private collection, United States, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Private collection, Europe.
This work is being sold pursuant to a settlement agreement that ensures good title can pass to the buyer.
Literature
The Artist’s Journal, vol. III, 20 September 1896.
Cahier d'opus: titled 'Coucher de soleil aux Canoubiers' & ‘Une calanque’.
Cahier manuscrit: titled ‘Calanque des Canoubiers (Pointe de Bamer)'.
Pré-catalogue: titled ‘Calanque des Canoubiers. Pointe de Bamer' (illustrated p. 256).
F. Cachin, Signac: Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, Paris, 2000, no. 301, p. 228 (illustrated).
F. Uhlig. ‘Debatten in Deutschland’, in Konditioniertes Sehen. Über Farbpaletten, Fischskelette und falsches Fälschen, Leiden, 2007, p. 41, footnote 64.
C. Hellman, ed., Paul Signac: Journal 1894-1915, Paris, 2021, no. 430, p. 210.
Sale room notice
Please note that this work has been requested for the upcoming exhibition Symphonies of Color: Signac and Neo-Impressionism to be held at the Museum Barberini, Potsdam, from July - October 2026.

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Bathed in the day’s first glow, Paul Signac’s Calanque des Canoubiers (Pointe de Bamer), Saint-Tropez captures the serenity of a Mediterranean morning. Long a painter of seascapes, Signac revelled in this glorious coastal landscape, its pine groves and placid surf. He made the Mediterranean a key subject of his mature œuvre and it inspired an extensive and innovative cycle of oils, watercolours, and prints. Signac, ultimately, was taken with the sense of eternal tranquillity that the region evoked, embodied eloquently in Calanque des Canoubiers (Pointe de Bamer), Saint-Tropez.
Painting individual daubs of saturated colours, Signac exploited the pointillist technique in the present work to reveal the drama of dawn with its deep violet shadows and emerging glimmers. Having worked alongside Georges Seurat, Signac too experimented with pointillism during the 1880s, a notable influence in the present work. The two artists first met in 1884 while organizing the inaugural Salon des Artistes Indépendants; a rich exchange soon followed, underpinned by what was to become a strong, supportive friendship. Although history has classified this dynamic as one of master and pupil, with the classically trained Seurat shaping and influencing the largely self-taught Signac, this was far from the case. Signac was, in actuality, a driving force within the Neo-Impressionist movement.
The lively brushwork of the Impressionists gave way to a process that emphasised control and permanence, what would become known as Neo-Impressionism. Both Signac and Seurat took up with gusto chromatic explorations rooted in the physics of light and the psychology of perception. They hoped that a thorough understanding of how pigments interacted with one another could produce an optical vibrancy in their canvases. Clarifying these effects, Signac wrote in his seminal 1899 treatise D’Eugéne Delacroix au néo-impressionnisme: ‘It guarantees the integral harmony of the work by the proportion and balance of these elements, depending on the rules of contrast, shading and radiance. It is a precise and scientific method, which does not enfeeble sensation, but guides and protects it’ (P. Signac, ‘D’Eugéne Delacroix au néo-impressionnisme,’ in C. Harrison and P. Wood, eds., Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Oxford, 1997, p. 22).
In 1891, less than a decade after their first meeting, Seurat passed away at the age of 31, a cruel ending to what had been an important partnership. Signac was profoundly affected by his friend’s untimely death and took it upon himself to assure Seurat’s legacy, an exhausting, depleting endeavour. Needing rest, and encouraged by letters from his friend Henri-Edmond Cross which detailed life in the South of France, Signac elected to leave Paris, a decision which would forever change his art.
Choosing to travel by sea, in the spring of 1892 Signac set sail from Bénodet, in Brittany, making the South of France his destination. His attraction to this region was in part influenced by the books of Guy de Maupassant, particularly his travel writings. Published in 1887, Sur l’eau chronicled Maupassant’s nautical meanderings along the Mediterranean coast, a journey which served as a refuge from the demands of modern life. ‘Calm reigns everywhere,’ he wrote, ‘the warm, gentle calm of the Midi and it seems weeks and months and years since I’ve had anything to do with people who dash around and never stop talking. I can enjoy the thrill of being alone, the quiet thrill of being able to rest and never be disturbed by a letter or a telegram, the sound of a doorbell, or even the barking of my dog. Nobody can call on me, invite me out, depress me with smiles, harass me with flattery. I’m alone, really alone, and I’m free. The train may be dashing along the coast but I’m in my floating home which has wings, swaying to and fro like a pretty little nest, more comfortable than a hammock and which is drifting here and there on the water, following the whims of the wind, going wherever it chooses’ (G. Maupassant quoted in C. Lloyd, ‘Coastal Adventures, Riparian Pleasures: The Impressionists and Boating,’ in Impressionists on the Water, exh. cat. San Francisco, 2013, p. 36 & 38).
A skilled yachtsman, Signac sailed his boat Olympia through the Bay of Biscay, using the Canal Latéral de la Garonne near Toulouse before entering the Canal du Midi; he reached the Mediterranean coast near Sète on 14 April. A marine idyll awaited the artist as he docked at the port of Saint-Tropez, and there he found a world seemingly untouched by the industrialisation and urban sprawl that had so dramatically altered much of France. It was a revelation.
Struck by its beauty and calm, Signac decided to make the small fishing village his home, and it was here that his art underwent a transformation. In a letter to his mother written shortly after his arrival, Signac conveyed his happiness at finding Saint-Tropez: ‘I am settled here since yesterday and overjoyed. Five minutes out of town, in the midst of pine trees and roses, I discovered a pretty little furnished cottage... In front of the golden coast of the gulf, the blue sea breaking on a small beach, my beach...and a good anchorage for the Olympia. In the background the blue silhouettes of the Maures and the Esterel – there is enough material to work on for the rest of my days. Happiness – that is what I have just discovered’ (P. Signac quoted in M. Ferretti-Bocquillon et al., Signac: 1863-1935, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001, p. 172).
Painted in 1896, four years after he had moved to the South, Calanque des Canoubiers (Pointe de Bamer), Saint-Tropez nonetheless conjures the same peaceful atmosphere that first enamoured Signac. On this early morning, the inlet is wondrously empty, its curved topography emphasised by the swaying pine trees. A single traditional tartane fishing boat catches the day’s first breeze. In his journal, Signac noted his initial thoughts on the subject, writing, on 20 September 1896, ‘Started the Canoubier pinewood painting. I would like a very light blue, lilac, and orange harmony’ and he went on to describe the preparatory sketches and watercolours that he had made en plein air (P. Signac, Journal, t. III, 20 septembre 1896, reprinted in F. Cachin, Signac: Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, Paris, 2000, p. 228).
If Seurat’s influence is still palpable in the early Saint-Tropez paintings, Signac was, by 1896, beginning to come into his own. Although pointillist in technique, the bright, sun-drenched palette seems to have been drawn directly from the crystalline light of the Mediterranean. As he spent more time in the South of France, Signac increasingly simplified his compositions in order to heighten the effects of colour. He began to incorporate more luminous shades and increasingly flexible brushstrokes, seen in the shoreline of Calanque des Canoubiers (Pointe de Bamer), Saint-Tropez. It was a transformation which Signac encouraged, noting in a journal entry written that same year: '[I have] simplified the lesser contrasts in favour of the overall effect' (P. Signac quoted in op. cit., New York, 2001, p. 173).

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