A HUGE thank you to everyone who joined us last week at the Caticons book signing and lecture held at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. The staff at the MSV is absolutely amazing, and I highly recommend their STEINLEN: Cats exhibit.
The exhibit includes Steinlen’s most iconic work, a poster advertising Le Chat Noir, a Parisian nightclub. It is a MUST see. This distinctive cat poster features a stylized black cat promoting the Le Chat Noir club which was frequented by Bohemian writers and artists including Émile Zola and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who became Steinlen’s friends and collaborators. This work paved the way for the use of images of cats in advertising in the 20th century.
Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen was obsessed with depicting cats in their various poses. He drew them, he painted them, and he sculpted them, capturing their elegant forms in both 2-D and 3-D. Steinlen’s very first set of engravings was all of cats, and they continued to be a favorite subject throughout his life as he captured their graceful gesture in his drawings, etchings and sculpture.
Being a huge Steinlen fan myself, I have 14 of his works, split equally between sculpture and drawings. In honor of the MSV’s Steinlen exhibit, I thought I would share some of mine. I picked two of what I consider Steinlen’s most important works, a preparatory drawing “Les Chats” and a sculpture “Chat Angora Assis (Seated Angora Cat).”
You have most likely seen a version of “Les Chats” for it has been featured on notecards, stationery and even scarves. The work is a preparatory drawing for an illustration he created in 1898. The finished work, a lithograph colored with green, black and peach ink, can be found in the Boston Museum of Art and accompanies three pages of text extolling the beauty and virtues of cats, which was, perhaps, created for a magazine.
Steinlen created over 2,000 illustrations in his career for books, journals, and music using different printing techniques including photo-relief, lithography and etching. Steinlen also used his artistic skills to call attention to the plight of the poor in illustrations he designed for numerous books and magazines, some of which he helped found.
Steinlen’s works on paper are best known, but his sculptures are equally, or dare I say, more impressive. For example, his “Chat Angora Assis” is classic Art Nouveau with its elegant curves showing off the beautiful form of the Angora cat. Angora cats originated in Turkey and were initially called Ankara cats, after a region in central Turkey. They typically have long, snowy white hair and are thought to be the genetic source for both the coloration white and long hair in cats. Steinlen has brilliantly captured the majesty of this ancient breed in “Chat Angora Assis.”
Hopefully, I have piqued your interest in Steinlen. The Steinlen exhibit continues at the MSV through Sept. 1st and you can see 11 of my Steinlens in Caticons.