Bordeaux, February 12th 1826 – 1904, Paris
Paul François Noël Louis Mondésir Seignac is born in Bordeaux. Other Painters part of the Ecouen Colony were born in Bordeaux too, like Theophile Emmanuel Duverger and Andre Henry Dargelas.
In Paris, Paul Seignac became a student of Edouard Picot (1786-1868), a history style of painter making a lot of orders for Parisian churches. Paul Seignac explored several areas and became specialist of common life paintings, being specially attracted by country sceneries and children playing. He exhibits three portraits at the 1849 Salon de Paris, has been awarded an honorable mention at the 1889 one and carries on until 1897. He has shown some paintings at the “Galerie des Artistes Modernes” (the Modern Artists gallery).
From Sarcelles, he moved to the village of Ecouen, joining its Painters Colony. He settles down in a vast house equipped with a large glass window and surrounded by a large garden. There is an engraving on top of the main entrance showing “Labor”, reflecting perfectly the state of mind of the indefatigable Paul Seignac. This house, not far from the Paul Seignac one, is located 8 “rue de l’Abrevoir” (horse pond street), being now “rue Collette-Rousset” (Colette-Rousset street).
On September 8th 1862, he marries Anne Salemke. They had five children, including Guillaume Seignac, becoming a painting artist too.
When Paul Seignac joins the Ecouen Colony, it is an already large group of painters following their leader, Pierre Edouard Frere. It includes some foreign origin members, like Luigi Chialiva (from Swiss), Auguste Schenck (Denmark), Cornelia Conant (United States). He said “one remarquable fact of Ecouen is the large quantity of artists we can see, talking on the outside whatever the weather is”. Members of the group look to be bonded by a real friendship. Some of their children will be married together. Two or three times a week, they would organize evening events, talking and having fun around some wine glasses and cakes.
This induced a real change in the painter’s habits. The artist is not painting alone in his closed workshop, eventually with one or two students. Now, he works on the outside whenever it is possible and shares his work with colleagues. Following this new trend, at the same time, open the schools of Fontainebleau, Barbizon and Pont-Aven.
Paul Seignac work follows the traditional realistic French style initiated by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), i.e. common life paintings with a large place given to children, on small size wood panels, most of the time made of mahogany. His direct contact with the people gives him the opportunity to share joy and sadness of their life. It shows on the touching subjects of his painting. At that time, the choice to paint ordinary people real life makes his painting accessible to all and gives a social dimension to his art.
Very soon, Paul Seignac becomes successful. Some reviews praising articles are building, step by step his reputation, like in the New York Times, in 1885. Cornelia Conant said that the paintings of this artist are very well known in the United States. We have to remember that, in second part of the nineteen century, this style of paintings was well appreciated in the US and in Europe. In England, some painters like William Bromley (1835-1888) or Thomas Webster (1800-1886) adopted it.
It looks like the last years of Paul Seignac were very harsh. In the military archives, there is a document dated September 5th 1892, certifying that the soldier #58, class 1890 (22 years old Guillaume Seignac, son of Paul) is the unique and indispensable support for his family composed of his father Paul, 66 years old, married and paralytic, his wife Augustine Salemke, 54 years old and one sister, Marie Adeline, 29 years old.
Guillaume Seignac donated, to the City of Ecouen, a painting of his father. In recognition, the “rue de l’Abrevoir” (the horse-pond street” became ”rue Paul Seignac”. After the world war two, this street became “rue Colette-Rousset”.
Paul Seignac was and remains today one of the most appreciated painters of the Ecouen School.
For further information, please read the book “L’Ecole d’Ecouen, une colonie de peintres au XIXéme siècle”, unfortunately only available in French for the time being (but we are working on it).