Steinlen’s cats revisited


Chris Marker’s feline obsession was oft-remarked: cats feature regularly in his films, and in later years he’d often send a picture of a cat to anyone requesting a portrait photo. The Immemory CD-ROM features his cartoon avatar/companion/alter-ego Guillaume, a character who later manifested in three dimensions in Marker’s corner of Second Life.

All of which had me thinking about another Parisian cat obsessive, artist Théophile Alexandre Steinlen (1859–1923). I’ve written about Steinlen’s cats before, one of which, his Chat Noir poster of 1896, is now a permanent fixture in the tourist shops of the city. Parisians are probably sick of the sight of that particular animal although I imagine Marker would have liked Steinlen’s other cats which range from fine art studies to cartoony sketches. All the examples here are from L’oeuvre gravé et lithographié de Steinlen, a catalogue of the artist’s print work from 1913. The song Ronde Des Marmites concerns the grey cats of Montmartre. At the end of the post there’s an other nod to Monsieur Marker (and Edward Lear) with a trio of Steinlen owls.




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Steinlen’s cats


Chat Noir poster (1896).

We had Louis Wain yesterday so it only seems right to follow with the other notable cat artist of the period, and also the one whose work I prefer, Théophile Alexandre Steinlen (1859–1923).

Steinlen’s designs for the Montmartre cabaret, Le Chat Noir, of which there are many variations, are dismayingly ubiquitous in contemporary Paris, so much so that you quickly tire of his haloed feline when wandering the streets. Parisians regard Steinlen’s posters the way Londoners regard pictures of Beefeaters; they’re part of the background noise of the capital city, intended solely for tourists. A shame because it really is a splendid cat.


The Apotheosis of the Cats (c. 1890).

Steinlen’s cat pieces run the gamut of styles and variations, from delicate life studies and bronze sculptures to works such as the three-metres wide mural above depicting the advent of some ultimate feline deity. Among his many drawings he produced a number of marvellous cartoon sequences like the one below featuring cats fighting, playing and generally getting into trouble. Some of these can be found on Flickr here and here.

For more Steinlen, including his non-feline works, there’s


The End of a Goldfish.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Louis Wain at Nunnington Hall
The Boy Who Drew Cats
8 out of 10 cats prefer absinthe
Monsieur Chat