ICafe Graphics: a selection of illustrative and practical design materials

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Alfredo's Montage: Iain Sinclair (Feb 2000)



Unknown Cafe graphic



Patrick Crooke: Card for Cafe Torino (1955) [collection of Germano Facetti]



Zita cafe: original sandwich wrapper (1999)



Kavel Rafferty: Cafe Open exhibition



Kavel Rafferty: Cafe Open exhibition



Colin MacInnes [England Half English], by Pat Fogarty  



Cafe Scene, by Ron Godwin


 Original cafe mug: Alfredo's N1 (circa 1997)

A selection of graphics and illustrations from the ever-increasing Classic Cafes master archive. Several more graphics pages will go online during the year.

Iain Sinclair: "London remains an ever popular subject for British authors, but few have tackled it as obsessively as Iain Sinclair... London is not just Sinclair's subject; it is his religion. His writing is like a bizarre cross between Betjeman and William Burroughs. Sinclair has inspired writers from Peter Ackroyd to Aidan Dun because he means what he writes, and what he writes is so beautifully unsettling... Anyone who cares about English prose cares about Iain Sinclair, a demented magus of the sentence. He is a bitter, slangy, rich precisionist who is flooded with impressions... Sinclair instinctively examines everything afresh, rejecting orthodoxy and cultural consensus. He holds you fascinated while he conjures substance and revelation out of thick air... (F)or him, writing is essentially a performance art. It is primarily a performance of his elaborate, artificial and highly allusive style. Sinclair employs extravagant metaphors and conceits, vertigo-inducing catalogues and countless half-quotations. His words seem to dance around the characters and incidents that inspire them, and to mock them for being nothing more than the occasion for his virtuoso riffs. Sinclair's books are anthologies of aria-like asides, digressions that spiral like Baroque involutions, compilations of phrases that endlessly perpetuate and annotate themselves..."

Patrick Crooke: The Barbican's Transitions retrospective (2002) devoted to British art of the 50s featured this Christmas card of the period. Cafe Torino was a favoured cafe for many of the art sects prevalent in the area at the time. A tiny slice of lost Soho that stands as a testament to the enduring influence of caffs on the creative life of a Britain emerging from the cultural shell-shock of WW2. Transition (The London Art Scene in the 1950s) by Martin Harrison: "London in the Fifties was a Mecca for artists: the painter Jack Smith, for instance, decreed that 'the wilderness starts ten miles from the centre of London in any direction'. The Bohemian underworlds of Fitzrovia and Soho attracted painters of the calibre of Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, R.B. Kitaj and Lucian Freud. Bacon became the most famous member of the circle centred on the legendary Colony Room in Soho, run by Muriel Belcher: a drinking den frequented by artists, critics and assorted hangers-on... The city was brimming over with ideas and movements: Neo-Romanticism, Social Realism, Pop Art, the Kitchen Sink School, Abstract Expressionism all jostled for dominance... Renowned art historian Martin Harrison brings the London of the Fifties to life, in all its vigour and fertility... he compellingly portrays a city in intellectual and artistic ferment.."

Zita (now Ida's), Shaftesbury Avenue WC2: Redocorated as of Oct 2004. Just round from the late The Tea Rooms, the Zita preserves a few highlights left over from the Festival of Britain Contemporary look: a nice 1950s exterior sign, glorious orange Formica seats and a suspended ceiling. The waitresses had orange aprons with the cafe logo on it... "The old ladies who ran Zita's have gone back to Italy but their cousin has bought it. I told the friendly young apronless waiter that I hoped he was going to keep the decor the same (especially the booths) but I'm not sure he understood me - he just sort of smiled and nodded. It seems to be called Ida's on the inside but the awning and sign and remain the same."

Kavel Rafferty: "Kavel's work has been featured in Elle Deco, Marie Clare, Elle Girl, The Observer Magazine, Design Week, Graphics International. Kavel has exhibited her work at the Cockpit Art's Open Studios, Designers Block, The Duke of York, The Victoria, Clerkenwell House and Mid-Century Modern. Rafferty celebrates the unique atmosphere of the 'greasy spoon': steamy windows, mugs of tea, handwritten signs, mixed grills, grumpy waitresses, bubble and squeak, sauce bottles... Pastel melamine colours evoke the 1950's cozy, faded interiours. Kavel's work focuses on the character and the very personal charm that makes every cafe an individual in these times of high street chains..."

Colin MacInnes: (1914-76) Son of the novelist Angela Thirkell, MacInnes was educated in Australia and served in the British intelligence corps during World War II. He was best known for his London novels, which display MacInnes's talent for acute observation, sympathy for the underdog, and interest in sociology. City of Spades (1957) vividly depicts the life of black immigrants to England..the other London novels are Absolute Beginners (1959) and Mr. Love and Justice (1960). The essays collected in England Half English (cover by Pat Fogarty, above) reveal MacInnes's broad concern with race, class, and crime. Dennis Potter, Daily Herald, 28 Aug 1961: "These essays [reveal] an eye for the grotesque, a poet's bravado with language, and a sensitive, obviously genuine comprehension of the fashions, entertainments and people sliding away from us. This is not smart journalism which Mr. MacInnes gives us, and you do not feel these pieces have been rushed off in tune with, and exploitation of, the latest craze or fad he notes. England, Half English will be read and admired for many years from now, for it leaps out at you, intrigues, delights and puzzles without asking you to snigger as a stranger."

Pat Fogarty: Fogarty was born in 1940 in South Africa and she was brought up with her twin Leigh, and her elder brother Denis in Namibia. From 1959 to 1962 she studied art at Port Elizabeth Technical College where she completed a degree course and taught art. She then escaped South African apartheid by leaving for Europe, living on teaching, painting, and eventually artwork commissions. She visited England in 1965. In the early 1970s she spent two years painting on the Greek island Skiathos. She then painted for two years in France where her knowledge of the movies enabled her to paint film posters. She returned to England in 1975 and took up commercial illustration. (She also successfully supported herself by betting on horses.) She had a close relationship for fourteen years with the avante-garde film maker Jayne Parker. Illustrated for Penguin Books, The Daily Telegraph, and Reader's Digest; Still-lifes for food columns in newspapers and magazines. Anne Boston, The Independent, 5 Mar 1999: "Small in size, Fogarty had charismatic presence and a combative streak. She made decisions quickly and stuck to them. A natural entertainer and mimic, she was perceptive about others, with an exceptional gift for friendship." Gillian Reeve, The Guardian, 23 Mar 1999: "Pat Fogarty was one of the best respected freelance book illustrators. Her portrait of John Mortimer for Penguin's book-jacket became a classic. Her career developed from teaching art to painting (both abstract and portrait), to freelance design and illustration to betting on horses to counselling..."

Ron Godwin: "Ronald James Godwin works in oil, acrylic and watercolour media. He is best known for his Poole estuary scapes and Pembrokeshire beach vistas and his London river scenes, done for the most part in miniature. Although largely a marine painter, he has also tackled city-scapes in London, Bristol and Bath. Ronald Godwin paints, for the greater part, out of doors and into the light with the use of a hand held miniature Pochade box. This enables him to paint in the most unlikely places (at sea, in cafes, shop doorways on the underground), in order, "to capture the very essence and mood of the subject". Much of what he has produced down the years has been painted in situ from his own boats around the British coasts and Inland waterways... There have been close to 40 venues that have shown Ronald Godwin's work and many paintings are now in private collections."

Alfredo's: "Long thought closed for good but saved by the S& M [Sausage & Mash] Restaurant chain as of Dec 2002. Alfredo's was founded and run by the DeRitus family who came to Britain at the turn of the century. After eighty years in the business, Vincent DeRitus looked forward to his son taking over, 'but he wasn't cut out for the catering game.' Parts of Quadrophenia and Mojo were filmed here, first-circle London ganglander Frank Fraser was practically part of the furniture and actor Steven Berkoff was a regular throughout his hungry years. The Deco styling dates from 1920 and is awesome: gleaming steel; lashings of blue table formica; amazing wall panels and vitrolite ceilings throughout. (Excellent mug souvenirs too). Exquisitely greasy and hugely popular, from Feb 2000, Alfredo's was boarded up but Islington council were adamant the exterior and interior were protected as fine examples of 1940s architecture (the upper apartments are also protected as an 18th C. terrace). The S & M restoration is a real indigenous attempt to face-off the US cafe chains: all the Formica tables, Thonet chairs, Deco trim and vitrolite panels remain fully intact. The company promises to revive more classic caffs in the future. Kevin Finch, head of S & M restaurants, says: 'With the new caffs I'm doing, the building, the fabric is as vital as the food. Proper tables, authentic light fittings... that's so important to me. We want that real atmosphere; I want to replicate what Alfredo's was, what it meant. It's got to be done with integrity and it's got to be done with heart.'" (Listed Grade II building)

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