Thursday, January 26, 2012

Inspiration from le Chat Noir

Steinlein-chatnoir
Have you ever seen this poster of a black cat, le chat noir? Perhaps at a home decoration store or on a Paris knickknack, a T-shirt or tote bag? It is beloved by cat folks as well as Paris aficionados. Have you ever wondered where it's from? What it means?
I think there's a lot of details around us that we take for granted so much that we don't even notice or question them anymore. Real life is inspiration, don't ya know.

A little Wikipedia research tells us a lot in a few seconds (the French article is longer). Le Chat Noir was one of the first (if not the first) nightclub/artist salons in Montmartre (ya know, where le Moulin Rouge was, where artists live and die, where street performers still dazzle tourists on the steps of the Sacre Coeur church, etc.)

The name on the poster, Rodolphe Salis, is that of the owner. They say he named it after a stray cat found on the sidewalk while they were doing renovations. He was the first to have the idea of bringing in a piano, basically creating the cabaret music style. Salis is quoted as saying "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." It became a favorite haunt of painters, musicians and poets.
Le chat noir carte postale
The cabaret closed after Salis' death in 1897. The weekly review the cabaret published, Le Chat Noir, continued for a couple years. The iconic name has been used for cabarets, bars, cafés, reviews, and plays around the world. The poster, created by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen as an advertisement, is now such a common place Paris image that we don't even ask what it is.

History and stories surround us, even in that stupid gift shop keyring! This makes me think of a fellow SCBWI France member, Sarah Towle, who created an interactive StoryApp iTineraries, called Beware Madame the Guillotine! It's a tour of Paris, with a story. Talk about really noticing the details and understanding what you're seeing; that's real life writing!! I haven't done it yet (can't wait!) but go to Time Traveler Tours to find out more.

Try to find some well-known object or image to question and research - I'd love to hear what you've discovered!

10 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for the shout out, Jenna! And alongside the iconic Chat Noir, no less!

    I'm pleased to announce that Beware Madame la Guillotine is now fully bilingual French-English. The French title is Gare à la guillotine. This updated version just launched, so your readers are amongst the first to know. Great for language learners and history buffs, even if they can make it to Paris.

    Best and more!
    Sarah

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    1. As a homeschooler, my mom always took advantage of every possible chance to learn/expand our life experiences - this story app sounds so great for that! And in French, mon mari français will be able to enjoy it too - phenomenal!

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  2. This sounds like a fabulous way in which to stimulate the mind... keep the creative juices flowing... spark writing ideas...

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  3. That's very interesting about Le Chat Noir. I love that poster. The first time I remember seeing it was while watching Friends.

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  4. I had never even given that poster a second thought. I guess I need to open my eyes more :)

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    1. A little girl asked me what it was once, so I looked it up...kids' eyes are better than ours!

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  5. That sounds like an excellent idea, although I sadly can't think of anything worth writing about. ;-)

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    1. Ooo, I thought of one for Tuesday's post...

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  6. I love stuff like this, so much history.

    Also, you're making me miss France. :o(

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    1. History is so amazing!
      I'm gonna get croissant and pain au chocolat Saturday morning and eat them thinking of you! I'd send you some, but I doubt they'd still be good...unless we rigged a stargate or somethin' - is there one near you?

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