Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange (1877-1958) is renowned for her relationship with Paul Signac. The pair met in Paris in the 1890s whilst Signac was still married to his wife Berthe and Selmersheim-Desgrange became his pupil and later his mistress. Through this relationship Selmersheim-Desgrange embraced the Neo-Impressionist pointillist style for which Signac had developed alongside Paul Seurat. Selmersheim-Desgrange was born into a highly creative family, in which the women were artists and costume designers, and the men were architects and draftsmen.
Following in their footsteps, she began her artistic career in the decorative arts before becoming a painter under Signac’s instruction. Her paintings were highly celebrated and she exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon des Indépendants from 1909. Selmersheim-Desgrange’s direct talent as an artist may be seen in the distinctive compositions of her brilliant still lifes and landscapes. Her watercolours and oil paintings are executed with a delicate palette of orange, yellow, rose, light blue and green pastel tones. But she also uses greys, which make for glistening opalescent nuances. Selmersheim-Desgrange spent a great deal of time in the South of France, particularly around St. Tropez, where Signac owned a house called “La Hune” with his wife.
In 1913 Signac rented a charming house in Antibes, where he settled with Jeanne shortly before the birth of their daughter Ginette. The relaxed atmosphere, the intense light, the brilliant earthen colors, and azure seas all helped to form Selmersheim-Desgrange’s aesthetic. Life in the South of France was focused around the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, and Selmersheim-Desgrange’s most spectacular works are those composed of view from a balcony looking onto the glistening Mediterranean beyond. Despite being a skilled and successful artist in her own right, Selmersheim-Desgrange appeared to be contented to stay in the shadows of Signac. Her own work is filled with, and reflects a true feminine sensitivity, in both the colouring and subject matter.
Following her death, her work was included in the exhibition entitled “Neo-Impressionism” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1968, and today Selmersheim-Desgrange’s work is collected internationally.