Franoise Cachin will include this painting in her forthcoming Signac catalogue raisonn.
In 1891, Signac completed five paintings of Concarneau in Britanny, which he collectively entitled La Mer, les Barques, Concarneau, 1891. By this date, Signac was producing his finest divisonist works. These demonstrated both the influence of Japonisme and the painter's great love of music. As Franoise Cachin writes,
The landscapes painted at Concarneau in 1891..... were likewise very "Japanese," recalling the Hiroshige prints he might have scrutinized at length the previous winter in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts exhibition.
The Concarneau series also reflects another preoccupation, that of finding in painting an analogy to music, a preoccupation common to the whole group of symbolist writers and painters. The system of combining colors that were divided and then harmonized recalled to them the role of musical notes; the lines of the composition paralleled melodic themes. Up to 1894 Signac numbered his painting "opus such and such," in the manner of musical compositions. He ceased doing so the moment he broke away from symbolist circles. It was certainly under the influence of Charles Henry (the aesthetic theorist) that Signac executed his most abstract paintings, in which the subject is totally dissolved in a play of rhythms, whose musical analogies had struck his friends (F. Cachin, op. cit., p.51).
The present work displays not only the rhythms of line and color but also distinct musical symbols, as the rock becomes a whole note (minim) and the trawlers a combination of half and quarter notes (crotchets and quavers). Signac re-emphasized the musical connection by initially entitling the work Larghetto at the Expositions des XX in Brussels, before reverting to a more descriptive title at the Exposition de Indpendants in Paris a few months later.
The harmony and rhythms of color within this work proclaim the summit of pure pointillism. Thade Natanson (see lot 41), director of La Revue blanche, summarized the artist's position accordingly: "If one were to make of what is called pointillism a kind of religion, it would claim Delacroix and the Impressionists as its prophets. Seurat would be the Messiah, but Paul Signac would appear as its St. Paul" (quoted in F. Cachin, op. cit., p. 41).
Concarneau. Calme du Matin. Op. 219 (Larghetto)
Oil on canvas
Signed, dated and inscribed 'P. Signac. 91' (lower left); 'Op. 219' (lower right)
Brussels, Neuvime exposition annuelle des XX, February 1892, no. 4 (as Larghetto (Op. 219)).
Paris, and Anvers, Association pour l'Art, Huitime exposition des Artistes Indpendantes, March-April 1892, no. 1128 (as Matin, Concarneau).
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, May-June 1981, January-June 1983, October 1983-June 1985, on loan.
25.7/8 x 32.1/8 in. (65.8 x 81.7 cm.)
F. Fnon, La Plume, 1 September 1891, pp. 198-199.
Entretiens politiques et littraires, February 1892, p. 93.
E. Demolder, "Le Salon des XX Bruxelles," L'Artiste, March 1892, p. 226.
"Clture du Salon des XX," L'Art Moderne, 13 March 1892, p. 82.
A. Alexandre, "Indpendants," Paris, 18 March 1892, p. 2.
F. Javel, "Signac," Gil Blas, 20 March 1892, p. 3.
C. d'Hennebaut, "Salon des Indpendants," Moniteur des Arts, 25 March 1892, p. 1.
E. Cousturier, "Socit des Artistes Indpendants," L'En-dehors, 27 March 1892, p. 3.
"Instantans. Paul Signac," Gil Blas, [20 March 1892], reprinted in L'Art Moderne, Brussels, 27 March 1892, p. 1.
J. Christophe, "Salon des Artistes Indpendants," La Plume, 1 April 1892, p. 157.
F. Fnon, "Au Pavillon de la Ville de Paris. Socit des Artistes Indpendants," Le Chat Noir, 2 April 1892, p. 1932.
"Exposition des Artistes Indpendants," Entretiens politiques et littraires, April 1892, p. 189.
P.M. Olin, "Les XX," Mercure de France, April 1892, p. 342, no. 28. C. Saunier, "Les Indpendants," La Revue indpendante, April 1892, p. 43.
G. Geffroy, "Les Indpendants," [29 March 1892], reprinted in La Vie Artistique, Paris, 1893, p. 370.
Signac, exh. cat., Muse du Louvre, Paris, 1963-1964, p. 45.
F. Cachin, P. Signac, Milan, 1971, p. 51 (as scherzo).
"The Sale Room," Apollo, vol. 106, no. 189, November 1977, pp. 429 and 431, no. 3 (illustrated).
Henri-Nicolas Lejeune (acquired from the artist in 1891).
Henri Lejeune, Saint-Cloud (by descent); sale, Sotheby's, London, 27 June 1977, lot 13.
The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), London.
Bluestone Corporation, New York.
Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York.