Paul Signac was a French neo-Impressionist painter, one of the originators of the technique known as Pointillism or Divisionism. He came from an affluent family of shopkeepers and intended to study architecture but a visit to a Claude Monet exhibition inspired him to pursue an artistic career.
His early works show the influence of Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Armand Guillaumin, a close friend who also provided important encouragement to the artist. In 1884, Signac was a founder-member of the Salon des Independants, where he met Georges Seurat who exhibited Bathers at Asnieres. At the time of their meeting, Signac was practicing an orthodox form of Impressionism whereas Seurat was already a devotee of Divisionism. Seurat's color theory seduced Signac by its rigour, which was in direct opposition to the instinctive approach of the Impressionists. The two men pooled their research and greatly influenced each other's oeuvres and the evolution of pointillism.
Signac was also a talented draftsman, lithographer, and watercolorist. Many of his exhibitions featured Pointilist oil paintings alongside looser, less methodical watercolors. All of these works are unified in their quest to glorify the beauty of color. To Signac, color theory was of optimum importance and he promoted an aesthetic wherein the beauty of color was an end in itself.
Signac was also a very important art critic and historian. His book, From Delacroix to Neo-Impressionism (1899), a summary of the ideas and theories of the movement, is a standard text on the subject. He wrote an excellent study of Jongkind, a fine article on "The Subject in Painting" for a French encyclopedia, and other important articles and catalogue introductions. His essays, books, and articles, in addition to his revolutionary art, inspired his contemporaries (i.e. Camille Pissarro, Vincent Van Gogh).
Signac also strongly influenced future artists Henri Matisse and Andre Derian, thus playing a decisive role in the evolution of Fauvism. As president of the annual Salon des Independants from 1908 until his death, Signac encouraged younger artists (he was the first to buy a painting by Matisse) by exhibiting the controversial works of the Fauves and the Cubists.