There is a long history of creative people gathering in cafés. In Italy, at the end of the 17th and into the early 18th century, cafés became popular places for intellectuals, the middle class, aristocrats and the penniless to mingle. By the 19th century, in France particularly, a more modest cafe could see a collection of thinkers and artists, or ‘Bohemians’, exchanging ideas and inspiration. Even my friend and artist, Angus Nivison, speaks of art students in 1970s Sydney gathering in establishments to discuss their art and the ways of the world.
So, as I sit here over my (second!) coffee, I feel the history warming me and, although I drink alone, I do find inspiration and a chance to quietly muse over life and art. There is a gentleman sitting near me (not TOO near in this time of COVID) enjoying his toast with bacon. A mum behind is feeding her tiny baby as her coffee goes a bit cold. The staff, in true old-school hospitality style, make me feel welcome and don’t seem to mind me whiling away a few hours in a little corner.
So, although Matisse, Manet, Nivison, Hugo, Balzac and many, many other artists and writers aren’t joining me over coffee today, they are here in spirit. We are encouraging each other, turning over ideas and recognising the challenges and rewards of the creative life. Actually, they are quite good company!