When Guy de Maupassant speaks of Saint-Tropez, daughter of the sea in his book On the Water in 1888, the arrival of Paul Signac on board his boat, the Olympia, in 1892 is undoubtedly one of the most important events in the history of Saint-Tropez which, by its consequences, will embed the name of this village in the history of art.
Various artists lived and worked in Saint-Tropez or in this region. Auguste Pegurier, child of the country. Henri-Edmond Cross arrives the year before Cabasson and then settles in Cavaliare. It was while searching for an protected anchorage for his sailboat that Signac, great friend of Georges Seurat who just died, docked in the port of Saint-Tropez. He first lives in a shed near Graniers beach and then buys La Hune in 1897. Through his strong personality, he gathers artists around him who participate in the avant-garde.
Maximilen Luce visits Signac in 1892. He will regularly return to the region, as does Theo Van Rysselberghe, another notable figure of pointillism, who discovered the landscapes of the Midi in 1896, and after many stays settled permanently in Saint-Clair. These four artists form the core of the Neo-Impressionist movement. They were very innovative and were exhibited in the salons and dAutomne of independent Paris and have made the charms of Saint Tropez in several ways. Thanks to them, this village becomes a meeting and inspiring place for young artists. Signac, president of the Salon des Indépendants, has considerable influence. His house in Saint-Tropez remains a meeting place for painters of all levels. In addition to pointillism lovers, Signac is interested in all innovative research and welcomes and encourages its authors. Villa La Cigale, for example, borrows Henri Matisse in 1904.
The residence is of vital importance for art history. Matisse confronts his approach and his work on color, with Seurat's theories of which Signac is a loyal proponent. He seems particularly impressed by the works of Cross, whose glittering palette distorts the landscapes of the South with a lyric of chromatic truth. Matisse then painted several paintings: Madame Matisse in kimono (Boston), one representation of Saint-Tropez, one of the Place des Lices (Copenhagen). He brushes on Canebiers beach, sketches that he will use to paint the famous luxury, tranquility and lust. Young makers discover a new way and a new need to paint, such as Raoul Dufy. In the same summer of 1905, the 'savages' in particular attract attention; Albert Marquet and Charles Camoin, who undertook a journey between Cassis and Menton, stopped at St. Tropez for a long time. Camoin already knows Signac. This stay is a period of fruitful creation for the two artists whose Annonciade Museum has wonderful testimonies. Manguin returns in 1905 and lives in Villa Demiére, in the hills around Saint-Tropez. He found the inspiration for many paintings, including the two July 14 in Saint-Tropez.
The Villa Demiére, which regularly rents Manguin until 1920, is a second meeting place for painters after La Hune. Henri Lebasque was invited there in 1906 and painted the beautiful port of Saint-Tropez preserved in the Museum of the Annonciade. Roussel returns Signac, Maurice Denis ends with a kind of initiation journey where she takes home first place Cézanne Aix-en-Provence and Saint-Clair, on Cross. Manguin receives, in 1909, Pierre Bonnard. Here he has the revelation of the Mediterranean light that will illuminate his work until the end of his life. In the same year, Francis Picabia comes to Saint-Tropez on his honeymoon and he made a number of paintings representing the village and its surroundings (Saint-Tropez gave the Citadel, Muse l'Annonciade).
Other big names in painting find Saint-Tropez a happy inspiration, before 1914. Moses Kisling, who subsequently painted some of his best paintings, Dunoyer de Segonzac, met Signac in 1908, etc. It is impossible to be exhaustive to list of all artists known or left behind by posterity, who went to the Hune or Villa Demiére. From the end of the 19th century until the war of 1914-1818, Saint-Tropez is the place where new details of modern painting are developed.
After the First World War, Signac only regularly visits La Hune. Three well-known artists permanently settle in the region. Camoin bought the Villa Val Flor in 1921 and sold it in 1925 to Dunoyer de Segonzac, which changed its name to the Maquis. Camoin will hold a workshop in Saint-Tropez until the end of his life.