Postcards from the Edge: Le Cafe Martin

For many journalists and editors, starting the day by sipping the first of many strong coffees is of the essence when commencing the ingenious potential of the written word.

For centuries, and particularly throughout the twentieth century, the rush to the mind generated by caffeine often went hand in hand with literary and artistic creation and debate. In cities like Paris or Berlin, cafés regularly hosted informal salons where numerous coffee cups were served as accompaniment to literary discussions by groups of Modernist and Existentialist writers and critics.

Even though some Parisian cafes such as Les Deux Magots and the Café de Flore attained an elevated cultural status in France and abroad as institutions renowned for fostering generations of artists and intellectuals, very few venues could compete with the style of Le Cafe Martin owing to a promotional poster designed in 1929 by illustrator Charles Loupot. The picture, a very accomplished example of the influence of Art Deco in the fields of illustration, typography and graphic design, adroitly embodies the qualities of coffee and the metaphors of creative individuality with which the drink was associated at the time.

The poster features one lonely steaming cup of black coffee and a saucer surrounded by, or hanging in, empty space, suggesting the artist’s detachment from society and the stages of loneliness required during the creative process. In addition to the name and address of the café in elegant typefaces, the blank backdrop that frames the cup of coffee can be interpreted both as a physical representation of a table and as a metaphor for a bare background where creativity can develop. Because of the elegant design and messages communicated, Loupot’s illustration garnered a well-deserved and long-lasting appreciation not only by coffee lovers all over the world but by those passionate about producing and communicating art.