The scintillating watercolors and drawings of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century French artist Paul Signac are the focus of two intimate galleries at the Arkansas Arts Center that have recently been redesigned and reinstalled. The walls are filled with brilliantly hued views of harbors and gardens, historic towns and Paris streets. These works come from America’s finest collection of Signac’s graphic art, one hundred and thirty-three works that were assembled by Arkansan industrialist James T. Dyke. Mr. Dyke presented this magnificent collection to the Arkansas Arts Center in 1999.
While Paul Signac is famous for his oil paintings, he was equally a master of art on paper, which is the focus of these galleries. From an early date he made black and white drawings, often in conté crayon, to compose art works and to study details of his subject matter. In 1888, Signac’s fellow Neo-Impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro, suggested the medium of watercolor to Signac. Four years later, Signac followed his friend’s advice during a voyage to Saint-Tropez in his yacht in May 1892. When he began exhibiting his watercolors later that year, they were quickly successful with both art critics and buyers. By 1895 all of Signac’s studies from life were made in watercolor rather than with cumbersome oil paints on canvas. In addition to studies made out-of-doors, Signac also completed watercolors in his studio. Sketches and formally finished works, seascapes and still-lifes, show us Signac’s genius for art on paper.