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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Creative Gatherings

Meeting Places of Modernism

Art is seen as a solitary, even a reclusive, endeavor. 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 wide-ranging 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 and Duncan Bell; and the cafés of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Montparnasse: the hangouts of Apollinaire, Sartre, and Patti Smith. Interweaving two hundred examples of collaborative artworks throughout the text, with more than one hundred in color, Creative Gatherings is a beautiful, erudite commingling as inspiring as the gathering places Caws depicts.

288 pages | 120 color plates, 80 halftones | 6 1/2 x 8 3/4

Art: Art--General Studies

History: General History

Travel and Tourism: Tourism and History

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"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."


"An intricate web of stories, references, and anecdotes, brimming over with vivid illustrations."

Lauren Elkin | White Review, "Books of the Year"

"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. . . , 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."


"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."

Amy Hunsaker | ARLIS/NA Reviews

"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. . . . 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

"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. . . . 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

“‘They were all here,’ writes 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, Mount Holyoke College, author of “Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay”

“There are few scholars alive that combine erudition with first-hand experience like Caws. Caws’s 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, Italy

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 avantgarde communities across Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Beautifully written and informed by meticulous research, [Caws’s book is] 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

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