In 1881, Rodolphe Salis opened the club in Montmartre, together with a group of progressive writers, as a reaction to the populist and censored café-concerts. Entry was considerably more expensive, and the tone of the songs and performances was intellectual and provocative.
Le Chat Noir did not represent any specific political or artistic movement, and was described by one of its regulars as ‘ironic, cynical, mystical, religious, revolutionary and reactionary: everything, in other words, but boring.’
Le Chat Noir grew so popular after a few years that it moved to larger premises, marking the event with a bombastic procession. Bohemians and bourgeoisie alike flocked from near and far to the colourful medieval-inspired interior to watch performances of the shadow theatre. When these were taken on tour, Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen designed the poster with the black cat as an advertisement. The image went on to become the icon of printmaking and the culture of entertainment in the fin de siècle.
Mariel Oberthür, Le Chat Noir 1881–1897, Paris 1992
Phillip Dennis Cate et al., The Spirit of Montmartre: Cabaret, Humor, and the Avant-Garde, 1875–1905, New Jersey 1996
Phillip Dennis Cate et al., Around the Chat Noir: Arts and Pleasures in Bohemian Montmartre, 1880-1910, Paris 2012