National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1948
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Late 19th & early 20th Century Paintings & Decorative Arts Gallery Level 2, NGV International
Gasometers at Clichy is one of the first works painted by Signac according to Neo-Impressionist principles. From the beginning, Signac’s landscapes imaged semi-industrial locales – a choice that followed naturally from his family’s move in 1880 to Asnières, an outer area of Paris that was dotted with large gas storage tanks, factories, cranes and chimney stacks. The contradiction inherent in this painting, in Signac’s luminous depiction of an unimposing urban scene, is part of the work’s radical intent. The subversive nature of such urban landscapes lies in the very manner in which they depict the polluted locales of working-class Paris – districts that were seldom visited by the wealthy Parisian socialites, or members of the bourgeoisie, who constituted the artist’s viewing public
Paul Signac’s decision to become a painter followed his viewing of the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1879, and his earliest landscapes and still lifes showed strongly Impressionist tendencies. The friendship Signac developed with Georges Seurat (1859–1891) in 1884, however, was to separate him from the earlier Impressionists, whose work Signac came to see as conservative. Seurat’s scientific theories of colour division abandoned the harmonious blending of tones, in favour of placing strong, contrasting blocks of colour side by side. These would blend optically and create light, it was argued, when the viewer stood at a certain distance from a painting.