A painting by French Pointillist Paul Signac, which was stolen in 2018 from the Museum of Fine Arts in Nancy, France, was just found by the Ukrainian authorities, who suspect that the criminal group is also involved in the Renoir robbery in Vienna.
The Port of La Rochelle, an oil on canvas by Paul Signac, was recovered by the Ukrainian authorities in Kiev on Tuesday, 23 April, almost a year after disappearing from the Museum of Fine Arts in Nancy, France on May 24, 2018. The The 1915 work had been cut and removed from its frame, which had been left behind in the museum. The criminal operation took place outside the vision of the security camera, and according to the public prosecutor, who spoke about the incident, the work was of "hardened and particularly well organised criminals."
The 1.5 x 1.8 foot canvas depicting the port entrance to La Rochelle was found in the home of a man suspected of murdering a jeweller. "We received information about a group of people looking for buyers for paintings stolen in Europe last year," police official Sergei Tykhonov told AFP. "Several works of art have been discovered, including this painting, as part of a series of searches."
An examination conducted by experts mandated by the French government confirmed the authenticity of the painting, which was then given to Isabelle Dumont, French ambassador to Ukraine, during a ceremony in Kiev held on April 23. Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov stated he was pleased to be able to return the painting to the Museum of Fine Arts.
Estimated at around 1.5 million euros (£1.3 mil) after the robbery, the painting was part of a collection of 117 works donated to the Museum of Fine Arts by the widow of glass artist Émile Gallé. According to Sergei Kniazev, the police chief, the Ukrainian police plan to work together with Austrian officials to determine if the apprehended group of criminals was also involved in the November 2018 theft of Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Gulf, Sea, Green Cliffs, which disappeared from Dorotheum auction house in Vienna where it was estimated to fetch £140,000.
Although some consider him a representative of the Impressionist movement, Signac has claimed more association to the Neo-Impressionist movement, contributing to the development of Pointillism alongside Georges Seurat. Passionate about sailing, Signac spent his summers in Saint-Tropez, where he lived in Villa "La Hune", and navigated around the Mediterranean and Atlantic. His works were inspired by the colourful coastal landscapes and interplay of light and water, which manifested in his Pointillism technique. The canvas of the port of La Rochelle was executed in 1915, the year when the artist was named official painter of the Navy. It was one of only seven paintings he completed between 1914-17, due to the traumatising effects of World War I.
The artist's auction record was set in February 2019 at Christie's with The Port at the Setting Sun, Opus 236 (Saint-Tropez), a remarkable painting from 1892 that sold for $19.9 million.