In 1860, the outlying neighbourhood of Montmartre was absorbed into Paris. By the fin de siècle it had become the beating heart of the avant-garde.
The cheap workers’ houses, plentiful nightlife, and non-conformist atmosphere of the district on the hill exerted a powerful attraction on young printmakers.
They set up their studios there and met like-minded artists, writers, and bohemians at café-concerts and at the nightclub Le Chat Noir.
Their prints depicted the widely varying aspects of daily life in Montmartre.
While nineteenth-century Paris was being transformed into a network of wide boulevards, the originally rural Montmartre retained most of its steep and winding little streets, with the occasional windmill among the new buildings that were springing up.
The etcher and master printer Eugène Delâtre made this picturesque side of the district the recurring subject of his prints.
Symbol of modern life
By contrast, most printmakers, were fascinated by the noise and bustle of urban life in this area populated in the daytime by labourers, artisans, and small shopkeepers, and taken over after dark by café and revellers, prostitutes, and petty criminals.
Montmartre offered them a perfect example of modern society, with its social diversity, entertainment, and free-and-easy morals.
Phillip Dennis Cate et al., The Spirit of Montmartre. Cabarets, Humor and the Avant-Garde 1875-1905, New Brunswick 1996
Richard Thomson et al., Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre, Washington 2005
Ingrid Pfeiffer, Max Hollein (red.), Esprit Montmartre. Bohemian life in Paris around 1900, Frankfurt 2014