Railway junction near Bois-Colombes, 1885

Paul Signac (1863-1935)

  • Oil on Canvas, 46,4 x 65 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

At the start of his career as an artist Signac often worked in the suburbs of Paris. Here he chose unusual and sometimes ‘ugly’ industrial subjects, such as this railway junction in Asnières, to the northwest of Paris. Signac painted the railway yard with broad brushstrokes in fairly muted colours, a far cry from the bright hues of his later paintings and lithographs. The strong verticals of the trees and telegraph poles are a striking feature of the work. By positioning a dark form in the foreground, the artist created a vista and thus introduced greater depth in the picture.

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Contact with Van Gogh

In 1886 Signac met Vincent van Gogh in Paris. In 1887 the two artists regularly went to Asnières together, where they painted such subjects as river landscapes and cafés. Initially, Van Gogh chiefly admired Signac’s loose painting technique and the unexpected compositions he employed in his early work, such as in this picture of the railway junction. However, the Dutch artist mainly applied Signac’s experiments with contrasting spots of colour, the product of Neo-Impressionism, in his Paris paintings.


From 1886 Signac acted as the spokesman for Neo-Impressionism inside and outside Parisian avant-garde artists’ circles. He introduced the new movement at the eighth exhibition of the impressionists, and proclaimed the theories of his friend and mentor Georges Seurat. Signac’s contacts with members of the Belgian group of artists Les XX (Les Vingt) encouraged the dissemination of Neo-Impressionism in Belgium.

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