Halen, La Ciotat (Harbour Scene)
Arthur Segal was born in Romania in 1875 and left school early to study painting first at the Berlin Academy (1892), then in Munich (1896), Paris and Italy (1902–3), initially working in an Impressionist manner. He settled in Berlin in 1904, exhibiting with the leading Expressionist groups, Die Brucke and Der Blaue Reiter, becoming one of the leaders in 1910 of the New Berlin Secession group of progressive artists established in opposition to the Impressionist Secession founded by Max Liebermann.
In 1914, together with his family, Segal sought refuge in Switzerland, where he exhibited with the Dada group at the Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich. Here he began to make optical experiments in his painting, developing a distinctive type of prismatic Cubism. Afterwards he returned to Berlin where he ran his own painting school between 1923 and 1933 (declining a teaching post in the in 1925). Following the rise of Nazism, Segal was forbidden to paint and moved first to Mallorca and then, in 1936, to London. Despite a brief period in internment in Hutchinson, the so-called ‘Artists’ Camp’, in Douglas on the Isle of Man in 1940, Segal again established his own Painting School in London for both professionals and amateurs together with his wife, Ernestine, and daughter, Marianne, which he ran between 1937 and 1944. Interested in painting as a therapy for mental illness, Segal corresponded with many psychoanalysts and psychiatrists and had the support of Sigmund Freud.
La Ciotat is a port in the south of France near Marseilles. Painted in 1929, Segal’s dazzling image of a peacetime harbour shimmering in the sunlight gives no hint of the darker future. His artistic experiments sought to break with a single point of focus or dominance in painting and here he combines his knowledge of Impressionism (as a means of representing light) with his individual and striking variant of Cubism, dividing his canvas into eight carefully constructed and balanced schematic fields.