The Classicist: Paradise Lost - 40 Years of Cafe Society
In the 1920s, '30s, '40s and '50s the so-called Café Society in Europe drew together aristocrats, millionaires, artists, authors, couturiers, choreographers and musicians in a "glittering world of fashion and frivolity, opulence and ostentation", notes Thierry Coudert in his ultra-stylish new book, Café Society: Socialites, Patrons and Artists 1920 to 1960 from Flammarion. Those decades were the "apotheosis of an era that was to have a profound influence on the history of taste" Coudert writes, with the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Lady Diana Cooper, Diana Vreeland, Cole Porter, Noel Coward and Cecil Beaton setting the tone and deciding which artists, designers, and musicians were in vogue. The cover of the book (above) depicts heiress Barbara Hutton, then the Countess von Reventlow, at a tennis match in 1940, while Yves Saint Laurent, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau and many more make cameos in the impressive volume.
Gallery: Cafe Society
The lavishly illustrated book contains over 250 images, including several never before seen photographs from the author's own collection, showing his subjects doing everything from fox-trotting aboard cruise liners to mingling at extravagant parties given in the sumptuous private villas of Paris' luxury neighborhoods and the fairytale palaces of Venice. Café Society was just as defined by who was invited to these exclusive events as who was not, Coudert notes, an exclusivity that "extended beyond matters of rank or birth." The members of the Café Society "brought forth a new lifestyle, sophisticated and original, even avant-garde, by combining a sense of fantasy with distinguished elegance," while the rest of the public looked up with rapt attention to members of this posh social circle for confirmation of what was chic in fashion, the arts, and travel destinations.
Coudert provides an exclusive look into the world the members of the Café Society inhabited, detailing how they spent their time and of course their money, illustrating along the way how Café Society decided who would be included, and how they as a group influenced society at large, as well as the art forms they encouraged. "In its brilliance, its creative vitality, its eccentricity, its desire to shock, and its untroubled affinity with money," Coudret writes, "Café Society created a posthumous image of itself as a golden age, a paradise lost, in which nothing had more point than the pointless, nothing was more profound than the superficial, and elegance and an inimitable art de vivre took precedence over everything."