Signac was born in Paris to a wealthy family. His father, Paul Victor Jules Signac, was a naval officer; his mother, Marie Adrienne Françoise Félicité Grasset, was the daughter of a prosperous ship-owner. Signac himself initially showed little interest in art, preferring the company of his childhood friends and engaging in various sports. He began to take an early interest in painting after attending an exhibition of Impressionist paintings in 1878, where he was particularly taken with the work of Claude Monet. In 1886, Signac left the Lycée Impérial in Paris to study art at the École des Arts Décoratifs, where he met Pierre-Auguste Renoir. He would spend his summer holidays in Saint-Tropez, where he met other artists, including Henri Matisse and Albert Marquet.
Signac’s art is usually associated with the neo-Impressionist movement and he played an important role in developing its ideas. He was a founding member of both the Société des Artistes Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne, and he also helped organize several of their exhibitions. In 1886, he met Georges Seurat in Paris and, while the two artists had very different approaches to painting, they struck up a close friendship. Together they began experimenting with the newly developed technique of painting in dots or ‘points’. This technique, which came to be known as ‘Pointillism’, was particularly effective in conveying the impression of light and color.
Signac was a prolific painter and produced a large body of work throughout his career. His early paintings were often landscapes, but he later turned to cityscapes and portraits. He also painted a number of important political works, such as his ‘progressist’ series of paintings called ‘The Nineteenth Century in France’. In these works, Signac sought to document the major social and political changes that were taking place in France at the time.
Signac was an active member of the French art world and was friends with many of the leading artists and intellectuals of his day. He was a keen supporter of younger artists and often gave them advice and guidance. He also wrote a number of important essays on art theory, including ‘The Dissonance of Colours’ (1913) and ‘From Eugene Delacroix to Neo-Impressionism’ (1920).
Signac died in Paris in 1935. His work is represented in many major museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and the Tate Gallery in London.