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Paul Signac's Decorative Propaganda of the 1890s

Author(s): Brion, Katherine

Journal: RIHA Journal
ISSN 2190-3328

Start page: 0044;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: anarcho-communism | neo-impressionism | Paul Signac | decorative painting | propaganda | landscape | aesthetics | politics | terrorism | education | emotion | reason

In the 1890s the political and artistic ambitions of the neo-impressionist artist Paul Signac were embodied by a series of decorative projects. This article contends that Signac, inspired by anarcho-communist discourse and the prospect of revolution, attempted to synthesize in these works the didactic logic of propaganda and "purely aesthetic emotion." This synthesis was epitomized by the explicit deployment of two systems, divisionism and decorative pattern. With these systems, Signac hoped to initiate contemporary viewers into the aesthetic and social harmony of an anarcho-communist future. In the interest of addressing larger audiences, particularly among workers, he imagined proletarian spaces for his work. But the didactic elements of Signac's painting met with critical resistance, and public sites he envisioned never materialized. Faced with this lack of recognition, and with a diminished revolutionary outlook in the wake of the Proc├Ęs des Trente, Signac focused his painting on atemporal landscapes. This trajectory has been read as one of aesthetic liberation; this article seeks to retrieve the extent to which it was also one of constraint, tied to the frustration of Signac's political aspirations.
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