“There was on Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street a large cafeteria named Stewart’s … full of beatniks, delinquents, minor gangsters of its day,” Paul Cadmus said of the setting for this painting. He conveys the resident action in a tangle
of colorfully clad limbs, twisting torsos, and exaggerated facial expressions. One figure—a suit-clad gentleman in the background at right—seems calmly removed from the tumult. Turning suggestively toward the viewer as he enters the men’s restroom, he offers a reference to the gay life of the bohemian Village.
Gallery label from Lincoln Kirstein’s Modern, March 17 – June 15, 2019.
Cadmus’s satirical painting of the patrons of a New York cafeteria called Stewart’s captures the chaos of this popular dining establishment, a place where, according to the artist, “With a main course (usually less than 50 cents), soup, rolls, and coleslaw were thrown in.” Cadmus saw the posturing and flirting men and women who fill the scene as “beatniks, delinquents, minor gangsters.” He made the work for the Public Works of Art Project, a government-funded endeavor—part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelts New Deal—that employed American artists of the Depression era, giving them a chance to earn a living. Greenwich Village Cafeteria was exhibited at the Museum in 1934, together with over 100 other works from the program, and has remained here since then on loan from the U.S. government.
Gallery label from American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe, August 17, 2013–January 26, 2014.