A native of Lausanne, Theohile-Alexandre Steinlen began his artistic career as a designer of printed fabrics…He went to Paris at the age of 19 to live and devote himself to drawing professionally. Around 1880, he settled in Montmartre, the centre of the art community. He became one of the regular contributors to the journal Le Chat Noir, and soon began to draw for most of the humourist’s journals…At times using the pseudonym Jean Caillou, Steinlen submitted drawings to other satirical publications, including Le Mirliton and, from 1891 onwards, Gil Blas illustre, for whom he made over four hundred drawings.
It was the success of his work for Gil Blas illustroIe that established Steinlen’s reputation outside France. Among the more than thirty magazines to which he also contributed were Le Croquis, La Revue Illustree and Le Canard Sauvage…Like his contemporaries Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha, he was also active as a designer of theatrical and cabaret posters; an important means of disseminating his work and one that greatly added to his popularity.
He enjoyed the first of many successful exhibitions of paintings and drawings in 1894, and in 1909 gained the distinction of a room devoted solely to his work at the Salon d’Automne…
His fondness for animals, and in particular cats, was noted even as early as his schooldays, when he drew sketches of cats in the margins of his notebooks. Cats seem to have appealed to Steinlen for their charm, movement and character, as well as for their symbolic properties.