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Paul Signac and the development of Pointillism

Long before its worldwide popularity with Brigitte Bardot, Saint Tropez had charmed another artist: Paul Signac, who in the late 19th century developed the Pointillist movement launched by Georges Seurat. The painter and sailor was particularly inspired by the combination of vegetation, sea and sun in what was then a modest fishing port.

Love at first sight

This is how we might describe Signac's discovery of Saint-Tropez in 1892 during a cruise. The picturesque port, the bright Mediterranean light, the authenticity of local life: everything appealed to him about this place, which for 3 years became the exclusive subject of his work.

Following in the footsteps of Guy de Maupassant, who also fell under the spell of this small village, he would return regularly for 20 years, eventually acquiring a house (La Hune, in 1897) after having been modestly housed in a small cottage near the Graniers beach during his first visits.

In this setting, which he tirelessly explored on foot or by bicycle, he experimented with watercolor to spontaneously capture the varied landscapes before him..

But it was mainly the demanding practice of pointillism that he used to render all the complexity of the light in his home port.

The reflection of light on landscapes or objects is indeed one of the characteristics of this artistic movement which, although rather short-lived, played an important role in the history of art at the beginning of the 20th century.

By following the winding customs path offering inspiring views between land and sea, walking up the narrow village streets or setting up his easel on the port, the leader of Neo-Impressionism etched on canvas seascapes, landscapes and scenes of life, reflecting the gentle lifestyle of this authentic Var region.

A source of communicative inspiration

At the crossroads of the 19th and 20th centuries, the self-taught painter attracted a number of artist friends to the area, who soon fell under the spell of this little corner of paradise. Albert Marquet, Pierre Bonnard, Théo Van Rysselberghe, Charles Camoin...
They all made the trip to the Côte d'Azur and stayed at Paul Signac's house from time to time. Like their host, they were seduced by the pastel facades of the houses, the generous bougainvillea in bloom, the boats rocked by the slow motion of the waves and, above all, by the warm, shimmering tones of this southern light.

Among these guests was the "master of color" Henri Matisse in 1904, who painted a Pointillist canvas in an outbuilding of the villa before his artistic research led him to Fauvism, the other major avant-garde movement of a decidedly fertile period.


Associated with his love affair with his wife Berthe, Saint Tropez was gradually abandoned by Paul Signac when he separated from her in 1913. He left her the Villa Hune and, after the painter's death in 1935, part of his artistic legacy was inherited by the town that had so inspired him.

Many of his works can be seen at the Musée de l'Annonciade, and others, exhibited in museums around the world, continue to attract many art lovers to this now famous and lively tourist destination. Many artists also come all year round to capture the luminous shades of the Mediterranean so well translated by this pointillist genius.

To immerse yourself in his pictorial universe, click here.

Valérie from Comme des Français