Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud

Summer at the port of Istanbul. Under full sail, ships move off to the left and right, out of the viewer’s field of vision. As if opening a curtain, they reveal a view of Istanbul’s unique skyline of domes, towers and minarets. Paul Signac captured this scene on canvas in 1909 with thousands of dabs of his brush and his distinctive feeling for colour. At that time the city was still called Constantinople and was the most important metropolis in the Ottoman Empire. The Pointillist work is now the centrepiece of the special exhibition ‘Bon Voyage, Signac!’ in Cologne, which includes about sixty works by renowned artists such as Monet, Manet, Caillebotte, Courbet, Gauguin, Cézanne van Gogh and Matisse. The Wallraf is introducing a new Signac with this Impressionist journey through its own collection. The generous loan of Signac’s Constantinople: Yeni Djami from the Stiftung Kunst im Landesbesitz (NRW) enables the Wallraf to also exhibit a major work from the artist’s later period. The Wallraf’s department of art technology and restoration has thoroughly examined the painting especially for the exhibition and carefully cleaned the top layer of paint. The process of this restoration has been comprehensively documented and the result is breathtaking. This ‘new’ Signac is now presented for the first time to the public.

Our journey through the Wallraf’s Impressionists begins in Normandy. The coastal region of northern France is considered the birthplace of Impressionism. Artists such as Boudin, Caillebotte, Courbet, Luce and Monet came here to capture the beaches, harbours, villages and people in shimmering colours. So the small coastal town of Trouville quickly became a focal point for plein-air painting. Many painters moved from Paris to Brittany, the second stop on our journey, particularly after the direct train line was opened in 1863. The exceptional light on the peninsula, combined with the exotic feel of the area, with its Celtic roots and wonderful folktales inspired artists such as Bernard, Gauguin and Signac. They painted the Breton landscape in all seasons and were equally committed to including its residents in the scene. Many painters later went on long journeys in search of new inspiration. The exhibition shows how the sunshine in the south of France and its enchanting light attracted not only Impressionists, but also Post-Impressionists like Cézanne and van Gogh or Fauvists like Matisse and van Dongen. This completes the Wallraf’s presentation of its collection: an art tour to some of the most beautiful spots in France. The final part of this tour is a special section dedicated entirely to the works of Signac, in which the painter takes us from France to Italy and further, to Constantinople. The paintings that Signac and his fellow artists brought back home in their luggage still evoke not only awe and artistic pleasure in viewers, but also a sense of ‘wanderlust’!