New Year’s Greetings from the Café du Dôme
Paris, Café Brasserie du Dôme, 4.1.1926*
One day in very early January 1926, Moissey Kogan sat at a table at the Café du Dôme on the Boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris to write to his friend and patron, Max Sauerlandt, the director of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, to send him New Year’s greetings.
Kogan had long frequented the café, and it was there that he could often be found drinking his usual café crème and drawing, producing swiftly executed images sourced from his imagination, drawings that he sold to keep himself afloat.
The Café du Dôme had been one of the key sites of the École de Paris, the non-French avant-garde in Paris, since before the First World War. It was there that artists, dealers, critics, and other intellectuals, predominantly from Eastern Europe and German-speaking countries, would meet to exchange ideas and the latest artworld gossip. By the mid-1920s, it had also become the meeting place in Paris for the American literary world, but they were reportedly generally relegated to the tables placed outside the Café.
Although on that day in January, Kogan was evidently having what one might call ‘woman problems’, the idealised woman as embodiment of the female aspect of the divine remained central to his artistic vision, as his letter to Sauerlandt makes clear.
‘Firstly, my best wishes for the New Year, to the flourishing of art, and to your fruitful activities. For me, the new year is just like the old one, the same day-to-day worries, me lapsing into my reveries, and still in love with beauty in general and, specifically, with the feminine.
Whether that is a good thing or not, I cannot say, but I experience it with all the pores of my being, just as I do when creating my little goddesses. The only difference perhaps lies in the fact that one is subject to fewer depressions when one creates art, since one suffers such immense lows when loving women. As far as productivity and my art goes, I can happily confirm that the results greatly outweigh the quantity and intensity of female love [in my life]. In total, eight sculptures and over 100 large drawings, all produced within three weeks.
. . . By the way, when will I see you in Paris again? I would be so delighted to do so. . . . I am no longer spending my time at the Dôme, but day and night with the woman I adore. You’ll laugh at that, won’t you? Let me know shortly what you think of the drawings.’
*All of Moissey Kogan’s letters to Max Sauerlandt are marked with the date they arrived. The dates they were sent are not recorded, unless indicated by Kogan himself.
Featured image: André Kertész, Café du Dôme en hiver, gelatin silver print, 16.3 x 24 cm, 1928, printed post-war.
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