Posters: A Critical Study, 1913

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An appraisal of the state of poster design from almost a century ago by Charles Matlack Price. Lots of the names you’d expect from Europe and the United States—Steinlen, Mucha, Beardsley, Will Bradley, Maxfield Parrish, etc—plus a number of examples I hadn’t seen before. Also a surprising scarcity of Italians and Germans. Scroll down for a remarkably advanced dancer with a guitar by Will Bradley from 1895, a design that anticipates the flourishing of Cubism and abstracted graphics a few years later. Price’s book may be browsed here or downloaded here.

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Steinlen’s cats

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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.

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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 Steinlen.net.

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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

Monsieur Chat

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Who or what is the mysterious, grinning yellow cat? Wikipedia explains:

M. Chat (also known as Monsieur Chat and Mr Chat) is the name of a graffiti cat that appeared in Paris and other European cities in the months and years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The graffiti appeared most frequently on chimneys, but has been sighted in other places such as train platforms as well. It has also made appearances at political rallies. The originator of the street art remains anonymous.

The yellow cartoon cat is characterized by its large Cheshire Cat grin. The cat is most often portrayed in a running pose, but has also been variously depicted waving signal flags, bouncing on a ball, sporting angel wings, and waving in greeting at the entrance to a train station. It is sometimes accompanied by the tagline M. CHAT in small letters.

A shame I didn’t discover this phenomenon before I went to Paris last year, the city is cluttered with reproductions of Théophile Steinlen’s Chat Noir poster so it would have been fun to look for a more subversive animal. I found the wary creature below near the gardening market on the Ile de la Cité.

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French filmmaker Chris Marker is famously a feline aficionado so it’s no surprise that he’s made a documentary entitled The Case of the Grinning Cat (Chats perchés) examining the appearance of M Chat through the twin lenses of his video camera and his political concerns. A French site, Monsieur Chat (et autres…), similarly documents occurrences of the mysterious animal and this is their page about Marker’s film. Finally, there’s a Flickr pool although with fewer photographs than one might hope.

Via City of Sound.

Update: Monsieur Chat’s creator revealed (in French).

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Sans Soleil