Born in Switzerland in 1859, Theophile Alexandre Steinlen studied at the Lausanne University before taking a job as a designer trainee at a textile mill in Mulhouse in eastern France. In his early twenties he was still developing his skills as a painter when he and his new wife were encouraged by the painter François Bocion to move to the artistic community in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris. Once there, he was befriended by the painter Adolphe Willette who introduced him the artistic crowd at Le Chat Noir that led to his commissions to do poster art for the cabaret owner and entertainer, Aristide Bruant as well as other commercial enterprises.
In the early 1890s, Steinlen's paintings of rural landscapes, flowers, and nudes were being shown at the Salon des Indépendants. His 1895 lithograph titled Les Chanteurs des Rues was the frontispiece to a work entitled Chansons de Montmartre published by Éditions Flammarion with sixteen original lithographs that illustrated the Belle Epoque songs of Paul Delmet.
His permanent home, Montmartre and its environs was a favorite subject throughout his life and he often painted scenes of some of the harsher aspects of life in the area. In addition to paintings and drawings, he also did sculpture on a limited basis, most notably figures of cats that he had great affection for as seen in many of his paintings.
Today, his works can be found at many important museums around the world including at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., United States.
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