“Paul Signac: Reflections on Water” at LAC – Lugano Arte e Cultura, Lugano
Museo d’arte della Svizzera Italiana is holding a large exhibition devoted to Paul Signac (1863-1935) which opens a new season at the museum, one year after the inauguration. 140 works on loan from an outstanding private collection showcase the career of one of the nineteenth century’s most important artists.
The first exhibitions during this second year of activity of the Museo d’arte della Svizzera Italiana (MASI Lugano) aim to encourage reflection on the development of a pictorial language through the works of modern and contemporary artists and the ideal starting point for this is French artist Paul Signac, a great precursor of modern painting.
The exhibition “Paul Signac. Reflections on Water”, curated by Marina Ferretti Bocquillon, scientific director of the Musée des Impressionismes in Giverny and co-responsible for the Archives Signac, is being held under the High Patronage of His Excellency Monsieur René Roudaut, Ambassador of France in Switzerland and has been organized in collaboration with the Fondation de l’Hermitage of Lausanne, an institution which the Museum already collaborated with in 2012 for the thematic exhibition “A Window on the World.”
“Paul Signac. Reflections on Water” gathers together over 140 artworks including paintings, drawings, watercolours and engravings which belong to an exceptional art collection, one of the most important clusters of Signac’s works in private hands. Presented at the Fondation de l’Hermitage of Lausanne earlier this year, and now at the MASI Lugano, the exhibition offers an exhaustive panorama of Signac’s career as a painter, tracing the various phases that marked changes in his painting technique, from his earliest years and, especially from his decisive encounter with Georges Seurat (1851-1891) in 1884 in Paris, where he frequented several members of the group of Impressionists. Signac became one of Seurat’s very few friends, and together with Odilon Redon, the two artists founded the Societé des artistes independents which gave rise the following year to current of Neoimpressionism. Under Seurat’s influence, Signac abandoned the short, rapid brushstrokes of the impressionists and began experimenting with the technique of Pointillism which sought to construct an image through little daubs of pure colour and which drew its inspiration from contemporary scientific research on optics. Thanks to his paintings and his theoretical contributions, Signac became a reference figure for many later painters and artists active in the milieus of Fauvism and Cubism.
The exhibition explores Signac’s work chronologically and thematically, revealing the many facets of a man who was in love with colour. The works on display document the different stages of Paul Signac’s artistic development: from his earliest impressionist paintings until his last watercolours in the series Ports de France, while running through the heroic years of Neo-Impressionism, the radiance of Saint-Tropez, the shimmering images of Venice, Rotterdam and Constantinople. The ardour of Signac’s impressionist debut is set off against the limpid polychromes of the divisionist paintings, the daring Japonisme of the watercolours contrasts with the freedom of the sheets painted en plein air, while his great preparatory drawings done in watercolour and India ink reveal the secrets of serene compositions that had a long gestation in the studio. Watercolour was to become Signac’s favourite technique and he deployed it on his many trips since it allowed him to work out-of-doors and conferred a sense of lightness and airiness to his work. The exhibition provides an excellent illustration of Signac’s special relationship with this technique over the years leading up to his final great project: Ports de France, painted between 1929 and 1931, an itinerant exploration that crowned his career as a water-colourist.
at LAC – Lugano Arte e Cultura, Lugano
until 8 January 2017