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Breakfast

Paul Signac1886/1887

The Kröller-Müller Museum

The Kröller-Müller Museum

The French painter and graphic artist Paul Signac actually wanted to become a writer, but decided to take up painting after seeing Claude Monet’s first impressionist paintings. Signac did not attend art college, he taught himself through many hours of sketching and experimentation. The encounter with Georges Seurat in 1884 changed his life. Together they did research into colour and the effects of colour contrasts and developed a new style of painting that later became known as pointillism. The technique consisted of mixing colours with white only and applying these directly – in small dots – onto the canvas. The colours only merge together in the eye of the observer when seen from a distance. Signac was the theorist of this movement, which would have a big influence on the work of artists including Vincent van Gogh, who was also a friend, and Piet Mondriaan.
In The breakfast Signac used mainly blue-yellow and orange-green as contrasting and complementary colours. The figures (his mother, grandfather and the housemaid) are shown frontally or in profile and are standing or sitting motionless, without showing any expression. They have not been portrayed, but are painted as types, as examples of a timeless bourgeoisie. In that sense the painting is also a critical commentary on the self-satisfaction of civic life and the authoritarian capitalism that Signac, who was a confirmed anarchist, and his likeminded friends, rejected.

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