Le Chat noir
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Le Chat Noir (French for "The Black Cat") was a 19th-century French cabaret in the bohemian Montmartre district of Paris. It was opened on 18 November 1881 at 84 Boulevard Rouchechouart by the artist Rodolphe Salis, and closed in 1897 (much to the disappointment of Picasso and others who looked for it when they came to Paris for the Exposition in 1900). Its imitators have included cabarets from St. Petersburg (Stray Dog Café) to Barcelona (Els Quatre Gats). There is a "Black Cat" cafe in the City of Corfu, Greece, next to the sea on the main street between the (new) harbor and the center of town, and a quite conventional tourist restaurant called "Au Chat Noir" in the center of Brussels.
Perhaps best known now by its iconic Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen poster art, in its heyday it was a bustling nightclub — part artist salon, part rowdy music hall, partially due to an illegal piano. The cabaret published its own journal Le Chat Noir. It began as a small, two room affair, but within three and a half years its popularity forced it to move into larger accommodations a few doors down. Salis most often played, with exaggerated, ironic politeness, the role of conférencier (post-performance lecturer, or MC). It was here that the Salon des Arts Incohérents (Salon of Incoherent Arts), the "shadow plays" and the comic monologues got their start.
According to Salis: "The Chat Noir is the most extraordinary cabaret in the world. You rub shoulders with the most famous men of Paris, meeting there with foreigners from every corner of the world."
Famous patrons of the Chat Noir included Adolphe Willette, Caran d'Ache, André Gill, Emile Cohl, Paul Bilhaud, Paul Verlaine, Henri Rivière, Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, Charles Cros, Jules Laforgue, Charles Moréas, Albert Samain, Louis Le Cardonnel, Coquelin Cadet, Emile Goudeau, Alphonse Allais, Maurice Rollinat, Maurice Donnay, Armand Masson, Aristide Bruant, Paul Signac, Yvette Guilbert, August Strindberg, and George Auriol.