France 1863 – 1935
Women at the well (Young girls from Provence at the well: decoration for a panel in the shadows)
[Femmes au puits (Jeunes provençales au puits: décoration pour un panneau dans la pénombre)] 1892
oil on canvas
canvas 195.0 (h) x 131.0 (w) cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris , Purchase 1979
© RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
The surface of Paul Signac’s large painting is covered in dots and dashes of many colours. Colours collide at the edges of shapes and define contours. The diagonal edge of the coastline divides the cool ocean from the warmth of the sunburnt slope.
Two women draw water from a well in the foreground. Another figure in a cream sunhat walks up a winding path carrying two pitchers full of water. These vessels are symbols of communal village life and reveal Signac’s interest in classically inspired landscape settings. A lighthouse can be seen at the end of a peninsula and boats sail in the calm, cool waters.
This painting was one of the first Signac completed during his voyage from Brittany to the village of St-Tropez. The transparency found in this oil painting has similar features to the watercolour medium, which he had been experimenting with during his journey. The artist’s move south marked a significant change in his subject matter. He moved from painting working class landscapes in Paris and its suburbs to decorative images of villages and panoramic views of the coast.
The brilliant colour of this painting was intended to brighten up a dark corner in a room.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2009
From audio tour Masterpieces from Paris: Van Gogh, Cézanne, Gauguin and beyond Post-Impressionism from the Musée d'Orsay