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Art & Culture, Fine Art, Museums

The Bonaventure Pine by Paul Signac and Pointillism Art

Posted: March 10, 2017 at 10:25 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

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Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Pictured above is my photo of the painting The Bonaventure Pine by Paul Signac.  Those of us who live in Houston or who visit this city are fortunate in that we can see this masterpiece of pointillist style art created by Paul Signac in 1893 up close and personal at our Museum of Fine Arts. The address is 1001 Bissonnet St., Houston, Texas 77005.

Up close is really not the best vantage point to truly view any piece of art created in that specific style where pure dots of color are applied to a canvas or other medium.

Viewing such pieces of art from a distance is better.  That is because the eye automatically does some blending of the colors.  Therefore the images become more cohesive in lieu of just a myriad of contrasting dots of pure color when looked at it closely.

Pointillism in Art

Pure complimentary colors applied to a canvas without being blended on a palette or mixed with a brush is the idea behind the movement started by Georges Seurat and adopted by Signac.

Geometric rules were also applied with mathematical precision.  These were not quickly produced paintings such as those created by en plein air impressionists (those who painted outdoors) who captured a moment in time in an afternoon of painting before the sun set for the night.

The canvases meticulously painted in pointillism style were carefully constructed but not one hundred percent necessarily true to nature.  However they did reflect the message or image that the artist intended to impart whether it was one of landscapes or one with a political message.

Below is a good video explaining Pointillism in art.

Paul Signac joins Neo-Impressionism art movement.

In reading about Paul Signac after he met fellow artist Georges Seurat he pretty much abandoned his impressionistic way of painting and participated in the Neo-Impressionistic style of art.   He took up the banner representing that style of art after the death of George Seurat for several years.

During his lifetime he created art in various mediums including pen and ink, lithographs, watercolors, etchings and paintings.

Divisionism and pointillism were not immediately embraced by many in the art world as being worthy of merit. In fact some art critics scoffed at it!

This particular art movement was very short lived.   It was generally considered to be between the years of 1886 to 1891.

Paul Signac painting – Rotterdam Windmill Paul Signac [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Facts regarding the Pinus pinea tree painted by Paul Signac.

The pine tree painted by Paul Signac is native to the Mediterranean area.  Its official name is Pinus pinea. It is commonly called an umbrella pine but it is also known as a stone pine, parasol pine and Italian stone pine.

Umbrella and parasol pine makes sense to me because when this evergreen tree gets to be a mature height of up to 66 or even in excess of 80 feet or higher it develops that umbrella type of shape with its upper foliage.

The Pinus pinea or Umbrella Tree

The name Bonaventure commonly means “good luck” or “good fortune.”

Edible pine nuts are harvested from these trees and have been cultivated for thousands of years. The pine nuts from the Mediterranean area are highly prized. They are utilized in all kinds of recipes such as pesto and are a good source of carbohydrates, protein, mostly unsaturated fats as well as vitamins and minerals.

Pinus pinea pine nuts and shells
Source: By Saintfevrier (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The umbrella pine is also grown for ornamental purposes and undoubtedly Paul Signac saw many of these trees during his travels.  He memorialized this particular one in the painting titled “The Bonaventure Pine.”

Written next to this painting in the MFAH is the following:

Paul Signac

French, 1863-1935

The Bonaventure Pine


Oil on canvas

Gift of Audrey Jones Beck

Paul Signac was drawn to the sunlit coastlines of the Mediterranean that make southern France a painter’s paradise. In this painting Signac pays homage to the lyrical shape of a particular umbrella tree near the village of Saint-Tropez. He paints the pure bright light shimmering off the reflective surfaces of pine needles, grassy plane and sea. Signac’s regularly placed uniformly shaped dots of pigment swirl and stream, defining luminous contours.”

Painting of Saint Tropez by Paul Signac Source: I, Sailko [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Contemporary artists and friends of Paul Signac

Fellow compatriot artists with whom he befriended such as Georges Seurat included such names as the following:

  • Monet
  • Camille Pissarro
  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • Henri Matisse
  • Henri-Edmond Cross
  • Theo van Rysselberghe
  • Maximilien Luce
  • Paul Gauguin
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Paul Signac painting – Venice, The Pink Cloud, 1909 Paul Signac [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Life of Paul Signac

Paul Signac came from a fairly wealthy family background. His father and grandfather before him owned and operated a successful harness and saddle making shop.  The family lived above those shop quarters.

He was sent out to northern France to live with his maternal grandmother during the Franco-Prussian War.  It was there he enrolled in college studying mathematics.

His dad died when Paul Signac was only 17 years of age. This was a pivotal time in his young life.  Instead of continuing to study math he was drawn to the art and literary scene. The family business had been sold and I am guessing that monies received from that business freed him to participate in what was of interest to him.

I am basing my supposition on the fact of his contributing regular amounts of money to Jean Grave who was writing a paper supporting the ideas of anarchist communism. This was when Paul Signac was only 25 years of age!

Paul Signac loved sailing and he did some extensive traveling around the coastlines of Europe often painting water scenes. Supposedly he owned many different sailing crafts during his life and boating was one of his enduring hobbies.

Grand Canal (Venice) Source: http://Paul Signac [Public domain], via Wikimed…

Paul Signac married Berthe Roblès when he was 29 in the year 1892.  He purchased a home in the south of France at Saint-Tropez in addition to having an art nouveau apartment in Castel Béranger in Paris designed by the famous architect Hector Guimard.

Signac took on a lover in 1913 by the name of Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange.  They had a daughter by the name of Ginette-Laure-Anaïs Signac.  He never divorced his wife but continued to support her and they remained friends. He even gave Berthe their apartment in Paris and home in Saint-Tropez. He acquired another home in Antibes, France to share with Jeanne and their daughter.

Paul Signac was not only one of the co-founders but also became the President of the Société des Artistes Indépendants in 1908.  It was an exhibiting society that helped promote the work of artists that perhaps walked outside of defined lines of artistic expression judged fitting by existing salons. There were no awards given nor were the exhibited works judged. It was simply a way to get to present their works to the public in an easier manner.

He certainly led an interesting life and influenced and helped support younger artists who would continue to change the world of art and how we perceive it. Paul Signac died in Paris in the year 1935.

Signac was also a published author in addition to his leaving behind many works of his art in museums and private collections all around the world.

Les Andelys. Chateau Gaillard by Paul Signac, 1921, oil on canvas Paul Signac [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Selected References

If you are now curious to see much more of Paul Signac’s art…this is the video for you!  You will see watercolors, oils, drawings & more.  Sit back and relax!

You can find this excellent piece of art in the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

If you wish to see more of what is inside our fabulous fine arts museum,  check out these posts:

Fabulous Landscape Paintings

Religious Themed Art

Masterpiece Paintings at MFAH

Nine of our Favorite Paintings at MFAH

And just outside see the Phenomenal Cullen Sculpture Garden





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