4 October 2023


Zoom lecture

Montmartre 2

The Birth of the “Cabaret artistique”:

From the Chat Noir to the Lapin Agile.

The Avant-garde and Popular Culture in Early Modern Paris


The second lecture in our new Wednesday series

with Sylvie Koneski

After its annexation into Paris in 1860, Montmartre became the entertainment hub of the city. By the turn of the 20th century, the boulevards below the hill were lined with over 60 cafés, cabarets and dance halls, bearing names like The Fountain of Love, The Dead Rat and The Weapons of the Abbess.


A number of personalities - Rodolphe Salis, founder of the Chat Noir, André Gil, founder of Le Lapin Agile or Aristide Bruant, the best-known chansonnier of the Belle Epoque - created establishments in Montmartre that combined artistic performance, art exhibitions, art-group meetings and of course, drinking. These cabarets offered an unpreceded meeting place for the artistic elite and the bourgeois and working-class public, where avant-garde experimentation went hand in hand with pop culture. The cabarets were the primary promoter, catalyst, and often, site for the collaboration of artists, writers, composers, and performers in the production of illustrated journals, books, dramatic pieces, music, puppet shows, and the proto-cinema invention of shadow theater.


Montmartre was also a political Mecca, criss-crossed by anarchist circles: the Incohérents, the Hydropathes, Fumisme, the Quat’z’Arts. Other than artists such as Van Gogh, Picasso or Modigliani the Montmpartre cabarets also attracted important writers and composers like Mallarmé, Zola, Huysmans, Apollinaire, Debussy and Satie.


The spirit of Montmartre overthrew convention, liberated minds and bodies, broke social codes and invented an entirely new kind of inspired nightlife.

An empbarassed Athena covers her eyes before the revelers of the Quat'z'arts ball Lithograph by Willette
An empbarassed Athena covers her eyes before the revelers of the Quat'z'arts ball Lithograph by Willette

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