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230 × 180 × 30 mm
352 pages
211 illustrations, 133 in colour
15 Jul 2019

Creative Gatherings Meeting Places of Modernism Mary Ann Caws

Art is seen as a solitary, even a reclusive, endeavour. But visual artists, writers and musicians often find themselves energized by a collective environment. Sharing ideas around a table has always provided a starting, and a continuing, place for fruitful exchanges between artists of all kinds.

In her charming new book, Mary Ann Caws explores a rich variety of gathering places, past and present, which have been conducive to the release and sustenance of creative energies. Creative Gatherings surveys meeting locations across Europe and the United States, from cityscapes to island hideouts, from private homes to public cafes and artists’ colonies. Examples include Florence Griswold’s house in Old Lyme, Connecticut, meeting place of the Old Lyme Art Colony; Prague’s Le Louvre café, haunt of Kafka and Einstein; Picasso’s modernist hangout in Barcelona, Els Quatre Gats; Charleston, gathering place of Virginia Woolf, and Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant; and the cafés of St-Germain-des-Prés and Montparnasse: the hangouts of Apollinaire, Sartre and Patti Smith. The book interweaves 200 examples of collaborative artworks throughout the text, with 120 in colour.

Creative Gatherings gives light but careful sketches of places that Caws has known where creative people – painters, sculptors, poets and others – have congregated, eaten, smoked, drunk and lounged, while discussing their work, exploring their hopes, bitching about their dealers, sincerely extolling or enviously belittling their rivals, bragging about sex, fooling, striving and desponding . . . Reaktion has served Caws well. Creative Gatherings is a handy, portable book, not a coffee-table slab, but illustrated with sumptuous abundance.’ — The Spectator

‘an intricate web of stories, references, and anecdotes, brimming over with vivid illustrations.’ — Lauren Elkin, The White Review "Books of the Year"

‘Adds depth to the discussion about gathering spaces in relation to creative output, artistic movements, and inspiration among artists and writers . . . The book almost reads like a travel guide; one could imagine themselves taking it on exploratory walks through Paris, Venice, or Prague. However, the comfortable tone of the narrative should not deter librarians from including this volume in their collections. Creative Gatherings belongs in both academic and specialized art libraries, as well as on personal bookshelves.’ — ARLIS/NA Reviews

‘This sumptuous tour through the points of congregation of a variety of modernists over more than half a century provides a detailed road map for those interested in exploring the cultures from which European and American modernism arose and in which it flourished. This is an exploration of places, and Caws does not attempt to grapple with such things as the economics of modernism or the development of genius – or even the intricacies of modernist art. What she does extremely well is provide a sense of the locations and influences that allowed the varied strains of modernism to build and flourish. The book will also serve to introduce readers to the web of modernist connections and what has been sustained or lost in the years since these artists were active. By recounting her own experiences at a number of the sites, and connecting the past with her own passions, Caws makes both modernism and its places contemporary and personal. Even the most knowledgeable student of modernism will enjoy this book, though its greatest value will be to those just beginning their exploration. Recommended.’ — Choice

‘Where did the magic really happen: in the studio, the classroom, the bar or the bed? This survey sets out with an intriguing objective: to discover the ingredients making up the places that fostered, fomented and fermented Modernism . . . Mary Ann Caws teases us with tales of têtes-a-têtes taking places within the headiest imaginable environments.’ — World of Interiors

‘[an] informative and easy-to-read account. Caws has produced a well-written (and well-illustrated) book which neatly combines the histories of the meeting places with comments on many of the characters to be found there, and reflections on her own more-recent visits to them. She’s not just an acknowledged authority on various aspects of the modernist movement, she’s also someone who likes good food (see her The Modern Art Cookbook) and wine.’ — Northern Review of Books

‘Scholarly if not theoretical . . . Accessible without being condescending.’ — Rain Taxi Review of Books

‘'They were all here,' writes Mary Ann Caws about one of the astonishing 'creative gatherings' she summons from the aching past in this vivid, impossible-to-put-down book. The next best thing to being there is to relish this delicious mix of gossip, intense creativity, and cultural analysis. Under Caws's spell, crisscrossing the globe in search of those magical pockets of collaborative electricity, we all become what she calls 'lovers of gatherings.’ — Christopher Benfey, Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College and author of Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay (2012)

‘There are few scholars alive that combine erudition with first-hand experience like Mary Ann Caws. Caws’ writing has the enigmatic, serendipitous and discursive character of the writers, poets and artists she has spent her life with. The seemingly disparate threads of people, places and polemics meander, intersect and tangle in a rich warp and weft; a travelogue in time, spaces and ideas, taking the reader on a voyage of intellectual and historical discovery. Funny, insightful and provocative, Creative Gatherings shows that despite the ubiquity of new media, spending time together - at bars, cafés, salons and sitting rooms - remains at the heart of human creativity.’ — James M. Bradburne, General Director of the Pinacoteca di Brera and Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense

'Creative Gatherings documents the artists' colonies, bohemian haunts, country retreats, and favorite watering holes of some of the greatest cultural luminaries of the modern age. Rather than focus on the contributions of individual artists and writers, this enchanting book chronicles the shared lives of the various avant-garde communities across Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Beautifully written and informed by meticulous research, Mary Ann Caws has given us an instant classic: a must-read for anyone interested in the history and legacy of modernism.'’ — Michael R. Taylor, Chief Curator and Deputy Director, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

‘As an acclaimed teacher, translator, and expert on Modernist art and literature, Caws takes her readers on an exhilarating tour of Florence, Venice, Paris, Prague, Zürich, Sussex, and Asheville, North Carolina. All were famous sites of strategic artistic foment, and proving that genius can flourish almost anywhere given a few basic ingredients. From the 19th century to now . . . There are interesting ideas aplenty in Creative Gatherings; assessments of the relative benefits of rural vs. urban settings; female vs. male leadership; and the relevance of free-floating conversation vs. critical dialectics in the building of aesthetic theories.’ — First of the Month

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Mary Ann Caws is Distinguished Professor Emerita and Resident Professor of English, French and Comparative Literature at the Graduate School, City University of New York. She is the author of several books for Reaktion including Blaise Pascal: Miracles and Reason (2017), The Modern Art Cookbook (2013) and Salvador Dalí (2008).

Introduction: A Gathering Thread

1 L’Auberge Ganne: L’École de Barbizon
2 Florence and Fiesole
3 Venice
4 Paris and the Académie Julian
5 Florence Griswold House, Old Lyme, Connecticut
6 Pont-Aven and Le Pouldu, Brittany
7 Mallarmé’s Circle in Paris and Valvins
8 St Ives, Cornwall
9 Worpswede, Germany
10 Els Quatre Gats, Barcelona
11 Provincetown, Massachusetts
12 Collioure, France
13 Prague
14 Dada and the Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich
15 Surrealist Cafés in Paris
16 The rue Blomet, Paris and Surrealism
17 Charleston Farmhouse, East Sussex
18 Black Mountain College, North Carolina
19 Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Montparnasse

Photo Acknowledgements