(b. 1863, Paris, d. 1935, Paris)


French painter, printmaker and writer. He came from a well-to-do family of shopkeepers. A visit to the exhibition of Claude Monet's works organized by Georges Charpentier at the offices of La Vie moderne in 1880 decided him on an artistic career and encouraged him to try painting out of doors.

His early works, landscapes or still-lifes of 1882-83 (Still-life, 1883; Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie)show an Impressionist influence, particularly that of Monet and Alfred Sisley. In 1883 Signac took courses given by the Prix de Rome winner Jean-Baptiste Bin (1825-c. 1890), but they had little effect on his style. Such suburban Paris landscapes as The Gennevilliers Road (1883; Paris, Musée d'Orsay) place his works in a world of modern images comparable to those of Jean François Rafaëlli in which factory chimneys, hoardings and etiolated trees abound. Already a friend of Henri Rivière, Signac soon met Armand Guillaumin, who provided important encouragement.

In 1884 he was a founder-member of the Salon des Indépendants, where he met Georges Seurat who that year was exhibiting Bathers at Asnières (1884; London, National Gallery). In this painting Seurat had already begun to apply principles of divisionism (although not yet the dot-like brushstroke), while Signac was still practicing an orthodox form of Impressionism.

With Georges Seurat Signac developed an exact mathematical system of applying dots of colour, which they called Pointillism. He traveled extensively along the European coast painting landscapes and seascapes; in his later years he painted street scenes of Paris and other cities. He was a master of watercolour, in which he achieved great brilliance of colour and a free, spontaneous style. His work had a great influence on Henri Matisse.