Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange was born into a family in which the women had been artists and costume designers, the men architects and draftsmen. She began in the decorative arts herself then, after her marriage to Selmersheim was terminated (she retained the name), she met Paul Signac and became his life partner. Although she had had considerable training already, it was Signac who became her teacher, and her art is very close to his. She exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon des Indépendants beginning in 1909. To fully understand the period in which Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange lived, one must have known and loved the area around St. Tropez – the relaxed atmosphere, the intense light, the brilliant earthen colors, dark tree silhouettes, azure seas. All life was conditioned around the sea, the beautiful Mediterranean. Signac, as much a sailor as a painter, while cruising off the coast of Southern France in 1892, discovered St. Tropez and installed himself and his mistress, Jeanne SelmersheimDesgrange in a small house there – “La Hune” – to which he always returned and which was always home to him. Le Jardin was likely painted at their home, and reveals a remarkable talent for things of beauty – flowers, sunlight imbued colors, soft shady nooks, and symmetry of space prominent in this old seaport village. Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange was first and always French, able to abandon with order, license and restraint. Her name has graced many watercolors and paintings of great sensitivity and unquestioned personality.
The union of Jeanne and Paul Signac brought together two sensitive artists. They never married but of this union, Paul Signac’s only child, Ginette, was born. She also followed the painter’s path.