Arts Everyday Living: Best Friends & Companions-The Cat of All Cats in Paris of the Belle Epoque

Theophile Alexandre Steinlen, Poster for the Company of the Black Cat, 1896, color lithograph on wove paper, mounted on muslin, Purchased for the Virginia and Ira Jackson Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


Title: Le Chat Noir, 1896

Artist: Theophile Steinlen (1859-1923)

Imaging living in Paris in the late 19th century and walking into the Le Chat Noir or The Black Cat, considered one of the first cabarets. Where the clientele could order a drink while being entertained by the popular ses pieces d’ombre or shadow players–puppets projecting their shadows onto a white screen in a series of plays. Plus poets, musicians, and other performers organized by impresario Rodolphe Salis, the establishment’s founder.

Located in the Montmartre section of the city where the members of the  French Impressionists, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Theophile Steinlen, the creator of the iconic poster above, also resided. Originally from Switzerland,  Steinlen primarily worked in graphic media, with a decided affinity for portraying cats in various states, particularly relaxing and sleeping. However, the feline subject of Le Chat Noir sits proudly–a survivor of the streets, tough, alert, even defiant, reigning over Montmartre, a symbol perhaps of creative independence to artists.






In the public domain, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art does not endorse or approve use of the above image or acny of the material on this website. Nor has the National Gallery of Art participated in any projects utilizing the said image.

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