Musée d'Orsay: Paul Signac Women at the Well

Paul Signac
Women at the Well

Women at the Well
Paul Signac (1863-1935)
Women at the Well
Oil on canvas
H. 195; W. 131 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Women at the Well

After Seurat's death in 1891, Signac pursued his work both as a painter and as the theoretician of the neo-impressionist group. In 1892, he decided to leave Paris for Saint-Tropez where he was to spend six months a year until 1913. After making several small-format paintings of the harbour in Saint-Tropez during the summer 1892, Signac, the following year, set about a large composition, Au Temps d'Harmonie, an allegory of the ideal society and an illustration of happy life. In one of his first sketches for this painting, one can see two women busy drawing water from a well. Signac decided to isolate these two characters and to devote a painting to them. All the elements of the landscape in which he set the scene really exist in Saint-Tropez : the hill with the citadel at the top, the sea and the jetty of the harbour, the Maures hill and the Estérel foothills, but the painter synthesised them at his will, creating a new landscape on the canvas after several drawings and preparatory studies.

The painting was exhibited at the 1893 Salon des Indépendants, with the title Jeunes Provençales au puits (décoration pour un panneau dans la pénombre) (Young Girls from Provence at the Well (decoration for a panel in half-light)). The subtitle chosen by Signac seconds the opinion of the critic Félix Fénéon who detected in the artist's work "an art with a great decorative development, that sacrifices anecdote to arabesque, inventory to synthesis."

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