Paul Signac
Rue Vercingétorix

Rue Vercingétorix
Paul Signac (1863-1935)
Rue Vercingétorix
1885
Conté pencil on paper
H. 21,7; W. 31 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Michèle Bellot

Rue Vercingétorix


Following Seurat's example, the young Signac started drawing with Conté pencil, and completed his drawings without lines, using black and white for areas of shade and light. Linked at first to Neo-Impressionism, these drawings are works in their own right, and not preparatory studies. Their themes, focusing on the suburbs of Paris and on the banks of the Seine, compare with those of the Naturalist and Symbolist writers that Signac used to associate with at that time.

The Rue Vercingétorix evokes a particular literary location - the area which was home to the heroines of Huysmans' novel The Vatard Sisters, published in 1879. For his representation of this street in the 14th and 15th arrondissements of Paris, which runs alongside the main railway line to the West of France, Signac followed the author's words closely, evoking the "wide sweep of black buildings" and "the appalling misery of the old suburbs". The receding, empty perspective expresses the desolation of the landscape on the edge of the city; a cloud of steam suggests the noisy passing of a train; the solitary character turns away…
A note at the foot of the page, Drawing for the "Vatard Sisters" by J.K.H., leads us to believe that this work was originally destined to be an illustration for the novel. This would certainly never have been the case, because Signac and Huysmans had argued following the latter's publication of the "Art Chronicle" in April 1887 in La Revue Indépendante, in which Huysmans strongly criticised the Neo-Impressionist technique which was, according to him, unsuitable for representing the human form.




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