Four purrfect cat posters of the Belle Epoque era

Cat Posters

We are obsessed with cats. More than 3.8 million cat pictures and videos are shared online each day. That’s more than twice the number of selfies posted! Funny cats, keyboard cats, cute cats, fat cats, ugly cats, the list goes on. People have always had a love of our feline friends and it shows in these vintage cat posters.

The love for the four-legged feline can be seen back in one of the earliest vintage cat posters. Not only was it one of the first to feature a cat, it was also one of the earliest posters to advertise food. It was produced in 1894 by the Swiss-born artist Théophile Alexandre Steinlen for the Quillot Brothers to promote a brand new product, Sterilised Milk. The poster titled ‘Lait pur Stérilsé de la Vingeanne’ or “Pure Sterilised Milk from the Vingeanne” features a young, golden-haired girl sitting on a corner chair, sipping the ‘milk’ from a bowl. A trio of cats looking up at her longingly, in anticipation.

The most attractive poster ever made

The British born artist, Louis Rhead, himself a widely acclaimed poster artist of the time, commented: “When I saw it in Paris last year… it seemed to be the best and brightest form of advertising that had appeared.” Writer Charles Knowles Bolton is reputed to have commented: “this is perhaps the most attractive poster ever made. No man with half a heart could fail to fall in love with the child”. No doubt a proud ‘dad moment’ for Steinlen who had used his daughter Colette as the model. Original copies of this poster are rare and sell for anything from £12,000 to £20,000 depending on condition.

Steinlen was also responsible for possibly the most recognisable cat poster ever. A cat with plenty of attitude and crowned with a red halo, inscribed with the call to arms “Montjoye Montmartre”. Today, Le Chat Noir poster is probably better known for its iconic stern and serious looking black cat than its original purpose, which was to advertise an innovative entertainment establishment.

Le Chat Noir

When Le Chat Noir opened in 1881, its owner proudly proclaimed the venue would be “the most extraordinary cabaret in the world”. It most certainly lived up to the claim. The main image was so popular and instantly recognisable that it was used to create several different posters for various events just by changing the text. It’s a famous poster and one that commands a high price, with one version recently selling for just shy of £12,000.

Steinlen was one of the greatest illustrators of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and a hugely prolific artist. He is best known for his studies of cats, He drew them endlessly, in all their activities and moods. A book called Steinlen Cats featuring 66 sketches of cats is still available.

Often thought of as the Father of the Modern poster, Jules Chéret was undoubtedly a master of Belle Epoque poster art. He created over 1000 posters, and almost all of them featured beautiful, elegant women, full of joie de vivre that became known as ‘Chérettes’.

Cats in Quinquina Dubonnet posters

He would also feature cats in his poster designs from time to time, including two advertising posters he created in 1896 for Quinquina Dubonnet. Both feature a young woman enjoying a small glass of aperitif with just their beautiful white cats for company. They were to become famous in their own right, gaining notoriety from appearing in the posters, even gaining their own fan base – the ladies that is, not the cats!!

Another poster artist who liked to feature cats in his posters was Edward Penfield. He is universally considered America’s first homegrown poster artist and is known as the Father of the American poster. His magnificent illustration for the cover of his 1897 poster calendar is a self-portrait of the artist at work, with his cat sitting nonchalantly close by.

Whilst vintage cat posters may not be quite as popular as cat videos, it might surprise you to know, even if you were able to buy the four posters we’ve discussed, you wouldn’t get much change out of £70,000. We don’t do cat videos, but we can offer a great selection of cat-related posters from across the decades.