Lady on the Terrace

Paul Signac, 'Lady on the Terrace', 1898.

Paul Signac (1863–1935)

Lady on the Terrace, 1898

Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm
Purchased, 1982 (Shaw Fund)

Signac began working on this picture in August 1898, at his home in Saint-Tropez. Working from sketches, he devised the composition so that receding bands of colour on the terrace, balustrade, planting, wall and sea, lead the eye from the shallow foreground space towards the distant mountains. The vertical form of the woman (modelled by the artist’s wife, Berthe) is echoed by the upright structure of the tree, towers and church spire. Signac built up his composition with brightly coloured dots of paint, a technique known as Divisionism. Both his painting technique and compositional arrangement are carefully contained and controlled. 


About the artist

Signac was largely a self-taught artist. While his early work demonstrates the influence of the Impressionists, particularly Monet and Sisley, it was Georges Seurat who ultimately shaped his artistic development. The two artists met in 1884, the same year that Signac helped to found the Société des Artistes Indépendants. Seurat was deeply interested in the theory and science of colour. He developed a system of painting using small dots of pure colour which he termed Divisionism (also known as Pointillism or Neo-Impressionism). With Seurat’s encouragement, Signac adopted this method. In 1899 he published D’Eugène Delacroix au Néo-Impressionnisme in which he explained and defended Divisionism. Signac painted a number of figurative paintings prior to 1900, but for the most part he dedicated himself to painting landscapes, seascapes and harbour scenes.