STEINLEN Théophile-Alexandre
( 1859-1923). Swiss painter; born in Lausanne; died in Paris. Among the professional humorists who, like Willette and Forain, influenced him slightly at the time of the Chat Noir cabaret, Steinlen, arriving in Paris in 1883 from his Vaudois country, cut a serious figure. He the friend of all outcasts of fortune and all vagabonds of cities and villages who creep on, thin and bent, under wind and rain, tramps who inspire fear, couples who embrace interminably, nervous dogs and adventurous cats. He took pleasure in illustrating the dreams of a generous generation that believed, with Anatole France, in the coming of 'better times'. His drawing, as enveloping as that of Carrière, seemed to defend and protect. Even in violence and revolt, he preserved a kind of humility and tenderness. In his generosity, he was, like Daumier, the exact opposite of Forain. From even his most cursory works, from his posters and sketches for Gil Blas or L'Assiette au Beurre, from his illustrations for the Dans la Rue of Aristide Bruant, Les Soliloques du Pauvre of Jehan Rictus and La Chanson des Gueux of Jean Riche pin , there rises a continuous and comforting warmth. This great craftsman of drawing saw his work as a journalist less as a livelihood than as a means of defending truth and helping his neighbour. While his painting, which is excessively dark, has not always aged well, and while his colour is sometimes uncertain, his etchings and lithographs -- his work in black and white, dominated by chiaroscuro -- evoke the life of the streets, the factories, and the mines and suggest hunger, accidents, war and love, with a pathetic quality that transcends anecdote and sentimentality. Although he always treats familiar things, his feeling for the epic, which most of his contemporaries lacked, makes us forget his unevenness -- the price of his great abundance -- to admire only his active goodness and the soaring of his line.
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