Saturday, 16 February 2008

Cafe Des Artistes

D.F.L Clancy, he of many seasons on the floor at Miettas, di Stasio, Dogs Bar and a decade at Sunnybrae now green-carded in New Jersey asks:
Does the Magic Robot know anything about Zoltan Sepeshy? And of any connection to the café art scene?

Robot replies: Nu? So you think because he’s a Magyar we all know of each other?
Zolli [I think I can call him that now] according to a biography of another Detroit artist Sarkis was known amongst his contemporaries as that “mad Hungarian artist” who eventually became the director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art.
The local arts scene in Detroit in the 30’s and 40’s was based around the Scarab Club and your painting may indeed be of that revered institution. Or it could also be of the Russian Bear, the Roxy Bar, the Bagel Café or any of another dozen cafes and clubs in Detroit haunted by these émigré artists. But it would probably be the most important if it was of the “Round Table” at Greenfields Cafeteria, the Algonquin of Detroit at the time.

The idea of the Artist’s Café holds a mythology that bears examination.
Every city with a history of artistic endeavour has had its share of bohemian cafes and restaurants that have made an immeasurably important contribution to the spiritual life of that city.
At 144 Little Collins Street Melbourne in the thirties you could possibly have found Tucker, Dargie, Bell and many other established, emerging or struggling Melbourne artists enjoying and possibly trading pictures for good Russian inspired tucker provided by Minka Wolman/Veal in her much loved cafe Petrushka.

Mietta's salon was also a unique moment in time for Melbourne.
Lucio's in Paddington?

There are so many.

The patron of such places has to have a generosity of spirit to nurture artists, who often contribute more to the long term reputations of the restaurants than the fine cooking that may be on offer.
How many of us have taken coffee at Aux Deux Magots just to feel the spirit of de Beauvoir and Satre? Taken a drink at the Closerie de Lilas to feel the Absinthe in Baudelaire’s veins?

But to consciously construct such places is thankfully nearly impossible. They spring out of the essence of hospitality which is what makes this business so rewarding to its owners and its regulars.
Any others that come to mind?

Top Photo of Gerbeaud Budapest by Manfed Hamm
From Coffee Houses of Europe by George Mikes.


t h e - g o b b l e r said...

George, that was a seriously enjoyable distillation of what is often an elusive & intangible thing! Let us hope that the people who bought us the ersatz kitsch of Bridy O'Reillys never bring the 'Cafe des Artiste' concept to town!
I would say in a less obvious way, perhaps Marios in Brunswick St. nourished many artists.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Still does {Mario's]