Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Everyone Who Was Everyone

The handsome new volume, Café Society, chronicles and displays many a ‘ball of the century’, and the lavish costume parties, couture, horse races, yachts, villas, resorts, art, architecture and surrealist gardens that set trends for the 20th century and beyond.



Through lavish photos by masters such as Cecil Beaton, Horst, and Richard Avedon, we leap inside the glittering world of Lady Diana Cooper, Lady Cunard, Ali Khan, Cole Porter, Violet de Trefusis, Fulco de Verdura, Edith Sitwell, Noel Coward, Mona Bismarck, Alexis de Rede, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe) Diana Vreeland, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Charles de Bestegui, and sparkling names too fabulous and rich and fragrant to mention.



“In its brilliance, its creative vitality, its eccentricity, its desire to shock, and its untroubled affinity with money, 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, for the pleasure of a few and the happiness of all.” — Thierry Coudert, author of ‘Café Society’





Jeweled and scented members of café society were the trend setters, artistic patrons, and idolized celebrities of the early twentieth century.

As an unofficial club (most of them knew each other) of socialites, aristocracy, and artists, they lived large and thought nothing of traveling the world to attend the most over-the-top, extravagant parties and happenings.


Café society was defined by who was invited to these exclusive events and who was not – an exclusivity that extended beyond matters of rank or birth.


Members of this avidly followed social circle set trends and offered confirmation of what was chic in fashion, the arts, travel destinations.


They were the original style arbiters, whose patronage determined which artists, designers, and musicians were in vogue.





‘Cafe Society’—with paintings and private photos from the scrapbook of the Baron de Cabrol, includes images of interiors by Jean-Michel Frank, fashions by Cristobal Balenciaga and Elsa Schiaparelli, jewels by Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, and offers an exclusive look into the world these handsome men and beautiful women inhabited.

For added spice, gossipy chapters include juicy and mordant tidbits (mere rumors, quite often) about their glamorous personal lives. These histories of this international set illustrate how café society capriciously decided who would be included (beauty would get you everywhere) , and how they influenced society, as well as the art, ballet, theater, literature, and architecture worlds they encouraged.





The author: Paris-based Thierry Coudert co-authored the exhibition catalog for Cartier 1899–1949 at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in 2007. A close friend of café society ringleader Alexis de Redé and a collector of Art Deco furniture and decorative pieces, Coudert has an extensive personal archive of period publications and ephemera on café society.



CAFÉ SOCIETY: Socialites, Patrons, and Artists in Paris 1920 to 1960

Thierry Coudert, 320 pages, 250 illustrations and photographs.
Flammarion, distributed by Rizzoli New York.

All images used with express permission of the publisher.

22 comments:

Thank You For Asking said...

I'm intrigued! This is definitely on my list.
Thanks Diane.

Love Your Homes said...

Definately a book telling
"Style lasts" in one way or the other ...and truly unforgettable.

A must have, Rizzolis books are always among my favourites.

Mesmerizing post!

Ingela

Karena said...

Diane this sounds like the most fabulous book, very very excited to read it!

xoxo
Karena
Art by Karena

The Devoted Classicist said...

CAFE SOCIETY looks like a fascinating book. I can hardy wait to read it.

Hautezone said...

Greetings Diane,

Love the post! Captivating! This certainly is another book for my 'post Christmas' shopping list.

The images are delightful. I think I will have to have to purchase two copies. One for reading, the other for framing images.

Thanks so much!

Joy
www.Hautezone.Blogspot.com

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hello, Dear Friends-

This book was rather 'lost in the shuffle' of new books this winter--and I know you'll find it full of rich detail and slightly wicked gossip and innuendo.
It's clear that the author is rather obsessed with this world--but he also had the inside track and followed every twist and turn on their lives and accomplishments.
The book also 'fills in the gaps' between all the biographies and autobiographies of these characters, and paints a vivid portrait of a certain time, with its high-minded patronage of the arts, its costume changes, its trivia and its tragedies.
I know it will become a treasure in your library. Let me know. And I'm so happy Hautezone is planning to acquire two! A book over after my own heart.
cheers and very best, DIANE

Jeanne said...

I happened upon this book in a small book store in Paris and popped it right onto my wishlist for Christmas. Loving every page. Great post!

Concrete Jungle said...

Yet another for the must have list...thanks for the recommendation!

A Super Dilettante said...

Thanks my dear. It's in my shopping basket now! I call it "Diane-effect":) If you recommend something, it comes into my shopping list.

mary said...

I just order this book from Amazon. Although, I'm definitely not an elitist, this book seems to be invaluable for anyone interested in the 20th century social and artistic climate (can't wait to see the photos of the period rooms). Thanks for the heads-up.

HONEYBEEANDME said...

Diane,

WOULD LOVE TO READ IT...
I OFTEN LOOK AT THIS TYPE OF LIFE AND OF COURSE THESE WHERE DIFFERENT DAYS THEN THE NOW, BUT I OFTEN LOOK AT THE WOMEN AND IMAGINE IF AND WHAT THEY ARE FEELING WHEN THE PHOTO WAS TAKEN AND WHAT WAS INDEED GOING ON IN THEIR LIVES AT THAT MOMENT.. AT TIMES, I CAN FEEL THE EMOTION EVEN IF THE TRUTH IS BEING WITH HELD IN THE PHOTO...

THE DRESSES AND JEWELS ARE UNMATCHED TODAY..

XXOO
MELISSA

little augury said...

I have this one and it is a veritable who's who. a must have it is true. pgt

GRAYSONFAVOUR said...

Even though I am a lifetime non-smoker, the cover photo looks S0 chic to me. What is it that makes me want to look just like her...the way she holds her hand, the dog on her lap, the careless smile???

peggy braswell said...

Can't wait to read this...thanks Diane.xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

quintessence said...

Dying for this book! It was on my Christmas list but Santa didn't see fit to deliver. So - will be ordering this for myself in my next Amazon shipment!!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hello, Dear Friends--
Jeanne (shopping in Paris), my dear friend in Phuket, Griffin (thank you), Mary (yes), and Patricia Gaye, and lovely Sally and Quintessence and Peggy B--

I love your reactions. This book is so original and so unexpected. Thierry Coudert, the author, knew the 'creme de la creme' of cafe society and had access to private photo albums and private sketch books. He is also fearless (occasionally TMI about certain marriages, shall we say). Yes, it does show period rooms like Jean-Michel Frank designs, and yes, Sally, who would not want to wear a fur jacket and a floral voile dress and perch a poodle on our lap. I loved all your comments. So appreciated and noted. Thrilled you all loved this. best, DIANE

Ashfield Hansen Design Inc. said...

Diane-
I am currently reading a book on Truman Capote's Black & White Ball and this sounds like the perfect compliment!

Happy New Year to you!

David Hansen @ Ashfield Hansen Design

shiree segerstrom said...

What a fantastic book. I have to have it. Shiree'

Edith Hope said...

Dear Diane, Only yesterday evening, dining with a friend, were we bemoaning the fact that there seems to be such an absence these days of 'Bright Young Things' to scintillate and decorate one's life....in the manner of the 'Café Society' you feature here. Indeed, intelligence is useful but not absolutely essential but decorative personalities really are a must and seem to have been eradicated with the Recession. Any ideas about where they are now to be found?

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Lovely to hear from you, dear friends.
David and Barbara--yes, biographies illuminate the lives of others, and you could endlessly read about Truman Capote...but time to move on now to CAFE SOCIETY in Europe...get a taste of their lives, and then read more about Cecil Beaton or Barbara Hutton or the Countess de Noailles or Mona Bismarck...rich reading.

Shiree...yes, please do add this book to your library.

Edith Hope--I think all the Bright Young Things today have jobs! (Reminds me of the countess in Downton Abbey who asked 'what is a weekend?') They own art galleries, they write books, they paint, the have hedge funds, they're 'in fashion', they travel. That well-photographed 'cafe society' life can hardly exist today. Everyone looks to fulfillment in a career, a job, a quest, a focus...not merely ordering more jewels from Cartier or gowns from Balenciaga.
I love your blog! Most wonderful.
cheers to you all, DIANE

Brillante Interiors said...

Another world, even if still so close to us, a world of elegance and style, in love with the arts, searching for beauty, traveling for knowledge, working with passion. An inspiring book.

Reggie Darling said...

Dear Diane,
When this book hit the stores I assumed that it was going to be the usual surface-skimming, breathlessly-written collection of photographs of socialites and movie stars at El Morocco, blather about Elsa Maxwell, and gushing about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, etc. In other words a book that added nothing to what had already been published many times before, and widely available elsewhere.

I skimmed your review, or commentary, on it when you published it and made a mental note to check out the book at some point, as what you wrote was intriguing--I respect your opinions on such matters.

Yesterday I chanced into a marvelous book store called Clic in lower Manhattan (you should stop in there at some point you will love it, I know) where I leafed through Cafe Society and was impressed by what I saw, and bought it. I just spent the last hour poring over it, and plan on spending many more hours with it, reading every word and studying the photographs and images. To say it is well done is an understatement, indeed! Thierry Coudert has done a marvelous job cataloging the individuals of society and the arts who were a force to be reckoned with in the first half of the 20th century. Scholarly, well-written, beautifully illustrated, and full of new information, I am very pleased to have it in my collection.

Thank you for being the one who planted the seed that led me to buy it.

Your devoted servant, Reggie