The Artist Who Loved Cats: The Inspiring Tale of Theophile Steinlen is a picture book biography of the artist who created the iconic Le Chat Noir cabaret posters. More than that, it is a celebration of art, inspiration, and following your heart to create a life that you love.
Art, music, and cats...and a Parisian setting -- need we say more? Oui! Below are more details for you, dear Patrons and Patronesses of the Arts!
You never know when and where inspiration will find you! We are always on the prowl for new ideas...but sometimes, an idea pounces on us when we are least expecting it!
Susan: In the summer of 2014, I was in Paris on a family holiday, strolling down the streets of Montmartre. I peered into the window of a shop and spotted a little bronze sculpture of a cat. Cats were on my mind already: everywhere I turned, Chat Noir art was emblazoned on t-shirts, posters, coasters, mugs, and anything that could be imprinted and sold as a souvenir. I was, in fact, carrying a Chat Noir umbrella I had purchased the day before!
The friendly shopkeeper did not speak much English, and I spoke "un peu de Francais"... but when he showed me the artist's signature on the cat and pointed to my umbrella, I made the connection: I was holding an antique bronze by the artist, Steinlen. Curiosity isn't just for cats, so I did a little research -- and the beginnings of this rhyming biography began to pop into my head. Naturalmente, I showed the rough verses (and my new bronze cat, who I named Noir) to my partner-in-rhyme, illustrator Courtenay Fletcher.
Courtenay: A picture book about cats? and art? and Paris? Oui! Oui! I can-can do this!
We worked on the project for several months, then set it down and rolled forward with The Big Adventures of Tiny House. Two years (and 15 amazingly fun tiny house festivals) later, we turned our gaze back to The Artist Who Loved Cats. We were excited to learn that the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts had just mounted a wonderful Steinlen Cats exhibit, and we shared the draft with VMFA curator Dr. Mitchell Merling, who had very kind words about it!
The time away from the project turned out to be beneficial (art is like that sometimes!). Courtenay has brought a fresh new illustrating style for the book, and I've tweaked and polished the story. We'll continue to make it sparkle as we finish the book over the next two months.
We believe children (or your inner child!) will love the rhyming verse and delightful illustrations - while learning more about history, art, antiques and the life of an interesting artist!
Theophile Alexandre Steinlen was born in Switzerland in 1859, trained as a textile designer, and moved to Paris in 1881 to pursue his dream of being an artist. He immersed himself in the lively scene in Montmartre - a hub of musicians, artists, inventors and freethinkers who hobnobbed in cabarets, exchanging ideas and collaborating on creative projects.
That same year, France passed laws expanding freedom of the press - and many of the cabarets launched their own journals filled with social commentary, art and clever comics (think "The New Yorker"). Steinlen was soon contributing his talents to many of these journals. During his prolific career as an artist, illustrator, and graphic designer, he produced more than 700 illustrations and covers for journals (many of which had powerful messages about socio-political issues of his time), as well dozens of well-known posters, illustrated covers for musical compositions, delightful cat comic strips and more.
While many people recognize his art...his name is not as familiar as we believe it should be! And that's why we want to get The Artist Who Loved Cats into the world.