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Bistro! From Baudelaire to PicassoPreviously

Temporary exhibition #expobistrot

17 March 2017 - 21 June 2017



General public

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The exhibition

"Bistro! From Baudelaire to Picasso bears testimony to over two centuries of a certain way of existing in the world and of representing it. The exhibition explores the broad range of situations created by cafés, from the solitary drinker to pick-up scenes, from melancholic withdrawal to identity affirmation, from male exclusivity to female advocacy.”

Stéphane Guégan, Art Historian, member of the Scientific Committee

For its first major temporary exhibition, La Cité du Vin is presenting some one hundred works ranging from paintings to photography, films and literature. The goal of this exhibition is to highlight the essential role of cafés and bistros in creation and society, from the late 18th century to the current day.

At times leaving France behind for the rest of Europe and the USA, combining traditional media with photography and cinema, it
celebrates the living, fertile links between the world of the arts and the world of the café.

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Around a hundred works make up this original exhibition, bringing together internationally-renowned artists including:

  • Louis Aragon
  • Charles Baudelaire
  • Jean Béraud
  • Charles Camoin
  • Otto Dix
  • Robert Doisneau
  • Raoul Dufy
  • Jean-Louis Forain
  • Jörg Immendorf
  • Léon Lhermitte
  • André Masson
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Jean-François Raffaëlli
  • Mark Rothko
  • Patti Smith
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Jacques Villon
  • Edouard Vuillard and many others...

see the full list of works   



  • The exhibition design is inspired by the graphics of the ceramic tiles that are so typical of such places. Immerse yourself in the different atmospheres that are so particular to cafés, cabarets and bistrots!
  • An immersive space dedicated to cinema presents the role of cafés from early silent films to the current day.
  • A wine-themed visitor tour invites you to take in some ten or so works focussing on the history of wine culture and civilisation.
  • Extracts from texts by Charles Baudelaire, Louis Aragon and Patti Smith can be heard throughout the exhibition**.
  • A selection of 20th-century songs sets the tone, demonstrating artists’ love of bistros and cafés.


Both a space and a mood, the café has challenged artists. How do you render the interaction between light, bodies and glances which must enchant the eye of the spectator? How do you capture the atmosphere and the flow of affects? Whether luxury establishment or "boozer" worthy of Zola, each place possessed its own spirit which it imposed on the artists. More than any other social venue, cafés and bistros, dance halls and cabarets, even café-concerts, form the heart of our modernity.

section 2: Cheap Thrills

In response to the bourgeois cafés of the Impressionists came the popularity of the workingclass pub. Just as the Third Republic
swung between liberalism and strict social regulation, the painters swayed between glorification and condemnation of the effects of alcohol, of which the café is the symbol, if not the hostage. Alongside these sinister watering-holes, there is a positive iconography of wine: the people’s nectar, invigorating nourishment in opposition to the idle classes’ champagne.

Section 3: Attractions

The promiscuity of the sexes constituted one of the typical characteristics of the modern café. The fruit of lucky magnetism,
or mismatched, ephemeral or lasting, for a fee or for free, the couple penetrated the artists’ work and gave rise to all sorts of
situations, from the most sensual to the most amusing. From the 1870s and 1880s on, the focus often shifted to the solitary
. This solitude, related or not to the theme of reading and writing, was a self-assertion, even when the image was
tinged with melancholy. Photography in the inter-war period was also besotted with women in cafés, alone or in groups, the provocation of their number adding to the audacity of their gesture.

Section 4: Bohemian dream

A refuge or a stepping stone, the café can be seen as a metaphor for the artist in conflict, a bohemian or a dandy, who
rapidly identifies with these places where atypical individuals and cultures meet. Far from being a synonym of poverty or rejection, this temporary or fictional marginality sees itself as a keeper of the freedom to think, create and live. The exhibition invites the public to question the reasons for this mythology, substituted today by the figure of the artist celebrated by the media and the market. Why, since the 1970s, do artists and writers not feel the same need to gather "at the café" and capture its image? Moreover, certain artists continue to make the café one of the emblematic places of their creation, a place that is
both open and closed, where the culture of pleasure and debate is elaborated.

"Whether we call it a café, a bistro, or an “estaminet”, the 21st century French bar has a dual mythical function: it is identified, by the French and foreigners alike, as a part of French culture. Its history and organisation are seen as synonymous with French society, to the point where the “terrasse de café” and the “garçon de café” have become national stereotypes"

Pascal Ory, Professor of History at Paris-I-Pantheon-Sorbonne University


* Credits and legal notices

  • Charles Camoin. La petite Lina, 1907. Huile sur toile, 66 x 55 cm. Marseille, musée Cantini. ©Photo Claude Almodovar et Michel Vialle © ADAGP, Paris 2016.
  • Otto Dix. Portrait de la journaliste Sylvia von Harden, 1926. Huile et tempera sur bois, 121 x 89 cm. Achat de l’artiste en 1963 Paris, Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne - Centre de création industrielle. Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet. © ADAGP, Paris 2016.
  • Raoul Dufy. La terrasse de café, 1904. Huile sur carton, 33 x 24 cm. Legs de M. Paul Jamot en 1943. Dépôt au Musée Ziem, 2006. Paris, Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne - Centre de création industrielle.Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet. ©ADAGP, Paris 2016.
  • Edouard Vuillard. Café au bois de Boulogne, 1897-1898. Peinture à la colle sur papier, 48 x 51 cm. Besançon, Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie. © Photo Charles CHOFFET.
  • Mark Rothko. Composition, 1929-31. Huile sur carton, 32,8 x 35 cm.Collections of Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko. Artworks on canvas by Mark Rothko ©1998 by Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko
  • Jean Béraud. Diner aux Ambassadeurs, 1880. Huile sur bois, 37,5 x 45 cm. Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris. © Musée Carnavalet / Roger Viollet.
  • Léon Lhermitte. Le vin, 1885. Huile sur toile, 245 x 307 cm. Reims, Musée des Beaux-Arts.©Photo : C. Devleeschauwer.
  • Jean-François Raffaëlli. Bohèmes au café, 1886. Pastel sur toile, 55 x 44 cm. Musée des Beaux - Arts de Bordeaux. © Musée des Beaux-Arts, mairie de Bordeaux. Cliché L. Gauthier.
  • André Gosset de Guines dit André Gill (Paris 1840 - Paris 1885). Enseigne du cabaret "Au Lapin Agile" dernier survivant des cabarets artistiques du XIXe siècle, tous les soirs en activité,1875 - 1880. Huile sur bois, 151,5 x 111,5 x 4,5 cm.Collection particulière. Paris, en dépôt au Musée de Montmartre.
  • Jorg Immendorff. Kolonie-Los, 1982. Huile sur toile, 250 x 300 cm. Musée d'Art moderne et contemporain de Strasbourg. Photo Musées de Strasbourg/M. Bertola © The Estate of Jörg Immendorff,Courtesy Galerie Michael Werner Märkisch Wilmersdorf, Köln & New York.
  • Emile Deroy. Portrait de Charles Baudelaire, 1844. Huile sur toile, 80 x 65 cm. Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et Trianon. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais / Franck Raux.

** The extracts from texts by Charles Baudelaire, Louis Aragon and Patti Smith are read by the student actors at the ESTBA (École Supérieure de Théâtre Bordeaux Aquitaine), in association with the 3iS school.

Scientific Committee and Exhibition Curator

The Scientific Committee:

- Stéphane Guégan, Art Historian

- Pascal Ory, Professor of History at the Sorbonne

- Philippe Sollers, Author

- Jean-Didier Vincent, Member of the Institut de France, Professor emeritus of Université Paris-XI, Member of the Académie des Vins de France

Exhibition Curator:

- Laurence Chesneau-Dupin, Cultural Director of the Fondation pour la culture et les civilisations du vin

Marion Eybert, Temporary Exhibitions Manager

Exhibition catalogue

The catalogue covers the exhibition’s four themes and more broadly explores questions relating to bistros, cafés and cabarets (myths, places of desire, cafe and cinema, etc.). Authors: Members of the Scientific Committee for the exhibition: Stéphane Guégan, Pascal Ory, Jean-Didier Vincent, Philippe Sollers (interviews). Guest authors: Antoine de Baecque, Frédéric Vitoux, Florence Valdès-Forain, Claudine Grammont. Catalogue publication: March 2017, Editions Gallimard. Retail price: €29 including VAT. Points of sale: La Cité du Vin Boutique. Booklet available in english.

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