The present painting dates from 1885, which saw Signac moving from the formal Impressionist style he had adopted in the early 1880s toward the Divisionist principles which would mark his subsequent oeuvre. The preceding year, he had co-founded the Salon des Indépendants and met Georges Seurat, whose Divisionist landmark, Une baignade à Asnières (De Hauke, no. 92), was shown at their inaugural Salon that May. Quai de la Tournelle is an admixture of these dual influences, with its dappled brushwork to the water set off by the planar stonework at lower left.
The first recorded owner of the present work was Julien (Père) Tanguy, an amiable supplier of art materials to struggling Parisian artists in the late 19th Century, inluding Vincent van Gogh, who painted his portrait several times (e.g. De la Faille, no. F 263), and Signac. In lieu of payments his clients could ill afford, he would often receive drawings and paintings, in turn becoming an amateur dealer. The present work would remain in his collection until his death in 1894, featuring in his estate sale in June of that year.