Dessinateurs et humoristes: George Barbier


The haute couture of the 1920s has been the subject of my latest work-related research so I’ve been going through back issues of Gazette du Bon Ton, an expensive French fashion magazine which used pochoir prints of drawings by a variety of illustrators to depict the latest dress designs from Paris. One of the regular Bon Ton contributors was George Barbier (1882–1932), an artist whose work has appeared in several posts here, and who I look for now and then when browsing library archives. Searching for new Barbier may be at an end, however, since the more recent uploads at Gallica include almost all of the books that he illustrated. It’s no surprise that these have turned up eventually—it was only a matter of time—but among the cache there’s a unique item that I’d never have expected to see.


Dessinateurs et humoristes is a scrapbook of odds and ends covering Barbier’s career from 1912 to 1924, mostly humorous illustrations for magazines such as La Vie Parisienne, but the collection also includes handwritten material together with many sketches and drafts for unfinished drawings. This is part of Gallica’s “Collection Jaquet”, 113 scrapbooks collecting magazine work by French illustrators. I’ve not had the time to go through the rest of the collection but there are many familiar names in the list, each with books of their own: Albert Robida, Théophile Steinlen, two volumes dedicated to the prolific Gustave Doré, etc. Gallica’s information about these items is minimal so for now the identity of “Jaquet” remains a mystery. As for the Barbier scrapbook, if you like the artist’s drawings this is a delight to look through, a cornucopia of camp frivolity replete with all the usual crinolined ladies, powdered wigs, mischievous Cupids, tiny dogs, and almost as many nude males as there are females. There’s also a picture bearing the title “The Great God Pan” although as a representation of the deity it’s closer to Aubrey Beardsley than anything from Arthur Machen.




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Posters: A Critical Study, 1913


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


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

Monsieur Chat


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.


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).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Sans Soleil