For a while, before the Museum of Modern Art’s most recent expansion fractured the story it told of the evolution of adventurous art over the past century and a half, one of the first things we saw on entering the permanent collection galleries was a bold, puzzling image of a strong-featured, bearded man against a wild, proto-psychedelic background of swirls, stars, spots, and dots of brilliant hues. Shown half length, in profile, wearing a yellow coat, the protagonist held a sinister looking flower in one extended hand, a top hat and a cane in the other, everything conjured up with a flurry of tiny dots. Who was he? An aesthete? Flâneur? Performer? Showman? Painted by Paul Signac, this strange work rejoiced in the equally strange title Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones and Tints, Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon, 1890....

 

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