Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen was born in 1859 in Lausanne, Switzerland. He studied at the University of Lausanne before moving to Paris and later settling in Montmartre. Steinlen originally moved to the city to pursue a practical education at a textile factory before becoming involved with the burgeoning artistic and intellectual circles. He became interested in publications as a democratic dissemination of art to challenge hierarchies. He contributed to many journals and papers such as Gil Blas, Le Rire, Le Chambard Socialiste, and La Feuille. He also wrote for a periodical produced by Le Chat Noir, the famous tavern frequented by Toulouse-Lautrec, Emile Zola, Jules Verne, et al. Steinlen is well-known for his lithographic posters, especially the famous Tournée du Chat Noir. Throughout his lifetime he created more than 600 original lithographs, etchings, and other prints as well as some paintings and sculptures. Steinlen continued to work and exhibit until his passing in Paris in 1923.
Steinlen is known for his politically-driven works and as a staunch supporter of working-class rights. Though he was always concerned with depicting the poorer and darker side of society, World War I changed Steinlen’s focus to the human effects of war, including soldiers but also women, children, displaced people and others. He was not as interested in depicting battle scenes and glories of war but rather the destruction of all people as a byproduct of war. Steinlen’s work was exhibited extensively in Paris during his lifetime and is now included in the collections of many major institutions.