Gouache, watercolour and black Contè crayon on paper
26.3 x 38.7 cm
Signed “Paul Signac” lower right.
Inscribed “Concarneau” lower left
Hammer Galleries, New York Anon. sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, 6 May 1970, llot 6 Private collection, acquired at the above sale

As an avid sailor, Paul Signac was drawn to boats, harbours, and the sea throughout his life. In 1891, he visited the port of Concarneau on the Brittany coast for the first time and painted his famous series Opus 219-221 (Morning Calm, Concarneau (Larghetto)[1], Evening Calm, Concarneau (Allegro Maestoso)[2] and Sardine Fishing, Concarneau (Adagio)[3], which became an instant success with the critics.

During the 1920s Signac returned to Concarneau a number of times. The picturesque harbour with its old fortifications and colourful sardine and tuna boat was a popular artists’ colony during the late 19th and early 20th century. In September 1924 Signac wrote to his friend Garbriel Fournier form Concarneau: “We have stopped here to see tuna fishing boats. It is as wonderful as ever, all the more so since all the painters have gone.”[4]

This view of the Concarneau harbour at low tide shows two fishing boats lying aground at the quay with the panorama of the medieval ‘Ville Close’ in the background, a walled town on an island in the centre of the port. The picture is rapidly executed in gouache, black crayon and light watercolour, leaving much of the paper exposed. Signac never applied the Pointillist technique of his oils in his watercolours, but also preferred using pure colour in juxtaposed brushstrokes and avoided mixing tones, in order to achieve a vibrating effect.

Paul Signac regarded himself as a “watercolourist on the go”[5], and in 1929 embarked on a three year journey to paint one hundred ports of France, a project financed by his friend and patron Gaston Levy. The series is a beautiful document of the French coastal landscape before WWII. Since the present work is undated, it is not clear, if it was part of this series.

Marina Ferretti Bocquillon has confirmed the authenticity of this work.


Theo van Rysselberghe: Signac on his Boat, 1896, private collection


Paul Signac, Morning Calm, Concarneau, Opus 219 (Larghetto), 1891
Paul Signac, Evening Calm, Concarneau, Opus 220 (Allegro Maestoso), 1891
Paul Signac, Sardine Fishing, Concarneau, Opus 221 (Adagio), 1891

[1] Private collection
[2] Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
[3] Museum of Modern Art, New York.
[4] Letter from Signac to Gabriel Fournier, 23 September 1924, cited in Paul Signac (1863-1935) Watercolours and Drawings, exhibition catalogue by S. Bosman, Malborough Fine Art, London 1986, p.48
[5] Letter from Signac to Louis Vauxcelles, 18 October 1910, Fondation Custodia, Paris,  and letter from Signac to Berthe Signac, Oct.23, 1910, Signac Archives