You are here: Home / Exhibitions / Previous exhibitions / Exhibitions 2013 / CHAT NOIR. Art and pleasures of the Belle Époque

CHAT NOIR. Art and pleasures of the Belle Époque

Chat Noir, Arts and Pleasures of the Belle Époque. 27 June - 15 September 2013

27.06 > 15.09.2013

This exhibition explores the literary, artistic and musical atmosphere of the famous Black Cat cabaret of Montmartre in Paris during the Belle Époque, hosted by the audacious Rodolphe Salis (1851- 1897). Works from Toulouse-Lautrec, Edouard Vuillard, Théophile- Alexandre Steinlen, Nabis and the Symbolists immerse you in the bohemian world of Parisian nightlife and art at the turn of the century.

Free Preview : 26.06 - 18:30 > 21:00

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Tournée du Chat Noir Théâtre de Mons, 1896, coll Musée d'Ixelles © photo Mixed Media

Logo Musée MontmartreExhibition organised in collaboration with "Le Musée de Montmartre", Paris.

Exhibition catalogue:

Catalogue Chat Noir




Phillip Dennis Cate, Luce Abélès, Diana B. Schau, Michela Niccolai
Autour du Chat Noir. Arts et plaisirs à Montmartre. 1880-1910
Skira-Flammarion, 24 x 28cm, 200 colour illustrations, 25,50 €.




Whilst so often the late 19th century, the fin de siècle, is defined by its decadent philosophy, the first decade of the 20th, the Belle Époque, can be described with a sense of optimism and self-willed enthusiasm.

The poet Emile Goudeau, a highly organised and imaginative man, created a group known as the Hydropathes where poets and writers met for small impromptu meetings of a grand scale.

At the end of 1881, the Hydropathes led by Goudeau, settled in Montmartre and made the Black Cat, recently opened by Rodolphe Salis, their headquarters.  Montmartre took over from the Latin Quarter as the principal hangout for modernist activities.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Aristide Bruant dans son cabaret, 1893, coll. Museum of Ixelles © photo Mixed Media

Founded at the time as ‘a Louis XII style cabaret run by a fumist’, the first Black Cat opened its doors in November 1881 at Boulevard Rochechouart 84, at the site of a former post office.

The club was a small affair.  It consisted of two compact rooms in a row and barely accommodated thirty people.  At first, the back room, uninviting and poorly lit, attracted few customers.  Salis solved the problem with inspirational spin, adding mystery to the small dark room by naming it L'Instiut (The Institute) in parody of the famous French Academy on the Left Bank.  He reserved it exclusively for the use of artists, writers and musicians.

Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Étude pour la couverture du Mirliton du 26 mai 1893, 1893 © all rights reserved

Under the direction of Salis and due to the talent of writers and artists, The Black Cat and its newspaper were soon an incredible success, both in popularity and financially.  In June 1885, Salis was able to transfer the club to a beautiful, elegantly furnished three-storey building in Rue Victor Massé (formerly Rue Laval), located a few steps away from his old establishment.  Meanwhile, the first Black Cat was taken over by the singer Aristide Bruant and renamed Le Mirliton.  At the entrance to the second Black Cat was a yellow and black sign urging that this was the modern way!
Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Couverture du Mirliton du 9 juin 1893 avec la chanson Les Quat'pattes' d'Aristide Bruant, 1893 © all rights reserved

Document Actions