Antibes seen by painters

Antibes seen by painters

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  • Shellfish fishermen in Antibes.

    ZIEM Félix (1821 - 1911)

  • The Lighthouse of Antibes.

    SIGNAC Paul (1863 - 1935)

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Title: Shellfish fishermen in Antibes.

Author : ZIEM Félix (1821 - 1911)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 12 - Width 20

Technique and other indications: Watercolor

Storage location: Petit Palais Museum

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

Picture reference: 09-512534 / P.P.D.332

Shellfish fishermen in Antibes.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

To close

Title: The Lighthouse of Antibes.

Author : SIGNAC Paul (1863 - 1935)

Creation date : 1909

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 46 - Width 55

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Nantes Museum of Fine Arts website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Picture reference: 04-006992 / INV3538

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: January 2012

Historical context

The French Riviera and the painters

From the second part of the XIXe century, many French painters have endeavored to represent the towns, villages and landscapes of the south-east of the country. As with Italy before, the "journey" to the South is an important step in the career and development of artists. Work with light and colors; increasingly popular southern and sometimes “regionalist” themes; the presence of an extremely wealthy clientele of English and Russians on vacation: the Marseille region and even more the Côte d´Azur become highly pictorial.

A good example of this phenomenon, the small town of Antibes has been treated by many of the most famous painters since the 1840s, as the two images studied here indicate. By offering an interesting variation on the same theme (the bay and the lighthouse of Antibes), Shellfishers in Antibes, drawing by Félix Ziem, dating from the second part of the XIXe century and The Antibes Lighthouse, a painting by Paul Signac dating 1909 obviously allow us to grasp certain pictorial mutations. But through this real artistic and symbolic "school case" that Antibes has become, they also offer the opportunity to analyze the evolution of representations attached to the Côte d'Azur between 1850 and 1910.

Image Analysis

Two "Antibes Lighthouses"

Best known for his numerous representations of Marseille and Martigues (where he even opened a workshop in 1860), Félix Ziem (1821-1911) began his career with drawing. The manner and the theme (the Côte d´Azur strictly speaking and not the Var or the Bouches du Rhône which will be privileged thereafter) of Shellfishers in Antibes indicate a fairly early work (between 1850 and 1870). Fairly uniform, the image features a scene where four figures (in the foreground) collect seashells in the sand and among the algae brought in by the first waves. The artist favors a point of view that opens up a wide perspective on the bay, the sea (we can guess modest boats in the distance) which merge with the sky and the hazy clouds on the horizon. In the background to the right, the lighthouse also seems almost evanescent, hazy and indistinct. Barely enhanced by the few bright spots (fishermen's clothes), the light and the atmosphere are wintry, both pale and gray.

A Antibes Lighthouse represented very differently by Paul Signac in 1909, since his canvas, without falling exactly within the pointillism of which he is, along with Seurat, one of the most illustrious representatives, presents a fairly modern and original treatment. Here, the colors are not mixed but juxtaposed by small touches, according to the process of "division". In an atmosphere of fairly clear mauves, the landscape (made up of the Lighthouse in the background, the hills in the background, the sea and the boat in the foreground) acquires a strong poetic suggestion: blurred but very luminous; mysterious without being oppressive; melancholy and yet solar, joyful and serene.


From the Barbizon School to Neo-Impressionism

Quite sober, Shellfishers in Antibes evokes the landscape and "naturalist" vein of Ziem, through which he was associated for a time with the Barbizon School. Faithful to the precepts of John Constable, he renders Antibes here "after nature", favoring a "simple and everyday" scene. Almost surprisingly, he chooses a winter day: far from showing the South in its “typical” lights and colors, he offers an almost Dutch or English view of Antibes (the landscapers from the north being the primary reference of School).

While illustrating certain audacities of neo-impressionism theorized by Signac such as the division of tones and the "optical mixture" of colored touches (the mixture of colors being done only by the gaze of the spectator), The Antibes Lighthouse However, it evokes a more awaited Côte d'Azur, Antibes finding here all its Mediterranean elements. Beyond the pictorial treatment, relatively new (it still fits into the impressionist heritage), we understand that, popularized and made almost "classic" by many representations, Antibes is now known and anchored in the imaginary as an example of a “southern landscape”.

  • Harbor
  • french riviera
  • sea
  • boat
  • beach
  • barbizon (school of)
  • Mediterranean
  • Provence


BOYER Marc, The Invention of the Côte d'Azur. Winter in the South, La Tour d'Aigues, Editions de l'Aube, 2002.CACHIN Françoise, Signac, catalog raisonné of painted works, Paris, Gallimard, 2000. GOUJON Jacques, One hundred years of tourism in France, Paris, éditions du Recherches-Midi, 1990. HILD Eric, Study on the drawn work of Félix Ziem, Hyères, master's thesis in art history, 1976.SIGNAC Paul, From Eugène Delacroix to neo-impressionism, Paris, Editions Hermann, 1898.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Antibes seen by painters"


  • Barbizon School: Group of painters settled in Barbizon, in the forest of Fontainebleau, in the years 1840-50. They devote themselves mainly to landscape painting and herald Impressionism. The most famous are Camille Corot, Charles-François Daubigny, Jean-François Millet and Théodore Rousseau.

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