A Jazz Age New York Bohemian Dinner, in List Form

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
May 22 2014 9:30 AM

A Jazz Age New York Bohemian Dinner, in List Form

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

In this wry list, writer and artist Charles Green Shaw tried to capture the experience of attending a “bohemian dinner” in New York’s Greenwich Village. Though the list, held in Shaw’s papers at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, is undated, Shaw lived in New York in the 1920s and 1930s, writing for The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. It seems likely that this list dates to that time.

Shaw was a poet, as well as a journalist, and the genius of this list lies in its distillation of the dinner down to the little details of setting, food, and social interaction. With few words, Shaw evoked the loud atmosphere of a Washington Square restaurant (“wailing sounds”; “doleful discords”), the unappetizing food (“chemical wine”; “rum omelette”); even the sartorial affectations of his fellow diners (“long hair”; “low collar”; “flowing tie”).

Advertisement

Shaw later became a painter, influenced by cubism and abstract expressionism. You can see some of his late-period bold, geometric paintings in this brochure (PDF) from a 2012 show of his work at Spanierman Gallery in New York.

BohemianDinner
Charles Green Shaw.

Shaw papers, Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

Rebecca Onion, who runs Slate’s history blog The Vault, is a writer and academic living in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter.