For the artistically inclined with a passion for the new, France, and Paris in particular, held a special appeal during the time between the two world wars. People came from around the world to soak up French culture, including the Cubist works of such legendary artists as Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger. Their art encouraged the development of a machine aesthetic, especially through the exaggeration of proportions of everyday objects; Jean Després’s champagne glass transformed into a Cubist compote illustrates this new aesthetic.

Europe held a special appeal for Americans, who suffered from alcohol deprivation during the Prohibition years (1920–33). One such American was Chicago artist Archibald Motley Jr., who first discovered the pleasures of alcohol in 1929 when he arrived in Paris on a Guggenheim fellowship to further his career as a painter. There can be no better indication of the joys he experienced dining and drinking in Parisian cafés than the visual records he left behind. Motley focused on the variety of bottles on display, particularly ones sporting red seals. In fact, such red-sealed bottles became a leitmotif for his work, even after he returned to the United States, as can be seen in his 1943 painting Nightlife.

Christopher Monkhouse
Eloise W. Martin Curator and Chair, Department of European Decorative Arts

André Kertész. Café du Dome, Paris, 1925, printed 1970s. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Noel Levine.