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

Les Diablerets (L'Oldenhorn et le Bécabesson)

Paul Signac (1863-1935)
Les Diablerets (L'Oldenhorn et le Bécabesson)
signed and dated 'P. Signac 1903' (lower left)
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 31 7/8 in. (65 x 81 cm.)
Painted in 1903
Private collection, by whom acquired at the Weimar exhibition.
The artist.
Félix Fénéon, Paris, by 1904.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, by whom acquired on 28 July 1913.
Marcel Sembat, Paris, by whom acquired from the above on 28 July 1913. Private collection, and thence by descent.
Anonymous sale, Hôtel Drouot, 30 November 1995, lot 57.
Cahier manuscrit [the artist's handlist], produced 1902-1909, as 'Les Diablerets'.
G. Lévy [in collaboration with the artist], Pré-catalogue, produced circa 1929-1932, as 'Les Diablerets. L'Oldenhorn et le Becabesson' [sic], p. 334 (illustrated).
M. Guillemot, 'À travers les Expositions', in L'Art décoratif, September 1911 (supplément), p. 4 (illustrated).
F. Cachin, Signac, catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 2000, no. 396, p. 262 (illustrated pp. 131 and 262; the Weimar exhibition icorrectly dated '1905').
Weimar, Musée Grand-Ducal, Deutsche und französische Impressionisten und Neo-impressionisten, August 1903.
Paris, Galerie Druet, Exposition Paul Signac, December 1904, no. 12.
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paul Signac, January - February 1907, no. 29 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, La Montaigne, July - August 1911, no. 42 (illustrated).
Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Paul Signac, June - November 2003, no. 41 (illustrated pp. 102-103).
Hiroshima, Prefectural Art Museum, Monet and Renoir: Two Great Impressionist Trends, November 2003 - January 2004, no. 43 (illustrated p. 78); this exhibition later travelled to Tokyo, Bunkamura Museum of Art.
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Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni

Lot Essay

In August 1903 Paul Signac made his first journey to Switzerland, staying at the small mountain town of Les Diablerets in the Suisse-Romande, to the East of Lake Geneva and around fifteen kilometres South-West of Gstaad. Once installed in the area, Signac, an avid sailor and resident on the Mediterranean coast near Saint-Tropez, overcame his initial aversion to the enclosed vistas of the mountainous environment. He began to work on the watercolour studies, particularly excited by the effects of perspective and the play of light and shade across a sequence of planes. On 22 November 1903, the artist Charles Angrand wrote to Paul Signac: 'You say that you have two Diablerets under way. So, magical colours to the fore!' (Angrand, quoted in F. Cachin, op. cit.). Painted in 1903, Les Diablerets, l'Oldenhorn et le Bécabesson is one of the two pictures of Les Diablerets, mentioned by Angrand. It is a testimony to the importance of this work and its fellow that both were acquired separately by Signac's great friend, and one of the most important champions of Neo-Impressionism, Félix Fénéon; it was subsequently owned by Marcel Sembat, whose fantastic bequest forms such an important core of the Musée de Grenoble. Fénéon and Sembat knew the artist, and were avid collectors of his work.

Writing to Fénéon on the occasion of his purchase of the other painting of Les Diablerets, Signac explained that he had deliberately sacrificed many of the landscape's details, and this is likewise clear in Les Diablerets, l'Oldenhorn et le Bécabesson. Even a comparison with the drawing that Signac executed as a preparation for this work, which is now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, reveals this. The suppression of detail has allowed Signac instead to fill the canvas with colour, with lush brushstrokes creating a scintillating play of tones that carries across the breadth of the picture surface, creating an almost abstract harmony between the various blues, lavenders and pinks with which he has so deftly captured the light and shade of this mountainous scene. As he had explained to his fellow artist Henri-Edmond Cross, 'Simplification of the elements leads you to more colour' (Signac, quoted in J. Leighton, 'Out of Seurat's Shadow: Signac, 1863-1935, An Introduction', pp. 3-21, M. Ferretti-Bocquillon et al. (ed.), Signac: 1863-1935, exh. cat., New York, 2001, p. 15).

In this painting, Signac has revealed the extent to which he has combined his technical beliefs as to colour theory with his sheer love of painting in order to create this rich, luminous vision.

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