Saturday, April 17, 2010

Café des Artistes Closes After 92 Years

Café des Artistes, one of New York's most theatrical, romantic and historic restaurants, has closed. Café des Artistes was at One West 67th Street in Manhattan and was made famous by the murals painted by Howard Chandler Christy. There are six panels of wood nymphs and other Christy works on display include paintings such as The Parrot Girl, The Swing Girl, Ponce De Leon, Fall, Spring, and the Fountain of Youth.

The restaurant opened in 1917 and Howard Chandler Christy, one of the artists who lived in the apartment building above, in the Hotel des Artistes, began painting its now famous murals in 1934. Howard Christy had a way of painting women, much like the “Gibson Girls,” and around World War I, it was quite a bit of fame to be one of the “Christy Girls.”

George and Jenifer Lang, who have owned it since 1975, said they had closed for vacation earlier this month and had planned on reopening in September, but changed their minds.

“George Lang is 85 years old,” said Ms. Lang, who is also the restaurant's general manager. She went onto say, “Business has been down, not terrible, but down, like everybody else's, and we feel it's time,''

Ms. Lang said she did not know what would become of the cafe. The name is owned by the building's owners.


  1. I'm sure that those oh-so righteous fundamentalists are giddy at this news- 'pornography' and all!

    Seriously, I did not even know of this cafe until you brought it to our attention. I hope that there will be someone in NY who can take it over and, if not a cafe, then render it as another venue so that these works of art can be saved for future generations.

  2. Hello Muddy,
    I knew of Howard Christy because he was the one who did all those famous Red Cross / Army / Navy recruiting posters of WWI. Howard Christy was a very successful graphic artist and he also did a lot of high fashion, much like Charles Dana Gibson, “Gibson Girls.” He did work for several book and magazine publishers of the time. These included G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Dodd, Mead and Company, as well as Life, Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, Century Magazine, Scribner’s Magazine, and Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.

    Christy died in 1952 and was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1980 so this artwork could never be replaced should it be lost.

    I was waiting for Microdot to see if he could give us some local input from a artist’s input when he lived and worked in New York.

  3. Hello Muddy,
    I should also add that Chisty's murals adorn the Ohio Statehouse, as he was from Ohio, and his most famous painting is the huge Scene of the Signing of the Constitution of the United States which hangs in the nation's Capitol.

    If someone does not save the murals in Café des Artistes, well it will be a great loss to us all.

  4. I was away most of the day yesterday. I was prodded by peer pressure into a bike ride with an english friend of mine. It was a glorious day.
    Then we went to the neighbors for dinner.
    Sorry to say, I never made it to Cafe des Artistes, but I was familiar with Christy's work and have seen the illusrations. The building the Cafe is located in was called L"hotel des Artistes. It was not a hotel, but in the French sense. A grand city residence.
    It was built along the lines of a Hausmanian Parisian Hotel. Grand apartements with a beaux arts ballroom, the location, right on Central Park is pretty fabulous.
    My milieu in NYC was downtown and I didn't usually eat in uptown resaturants unless I was invited.
    New York seems to be in period of transition, but it always is. It is rare for an institution to last as long as The Cafe ds Artistes did.

    I am sure that the murals will be saved because what ever happens to the space, they are it's soul and history. I think the real estate values in NYC will rebound pretty fast and this is going to be a very coveted location.

  5. Christy's Girls are saved!
    This morning I came across this page, and I am very please to inform that the wonderful Christy's Murals will be saved. They are in fact in a verge of getting clean and restore. Also, a wonderful lighting designer is making sure they will receive their deserved attention and their vibrance will once more shine. My husband and I took over the space few months ago, and we are planning to open our doors to the new restaurant, The Leopard at des Artistes, Spring 2011. We also own another restaurant in town, Il Gattopardo (a cross street from MoMA on 54th Street). The new space needs lots of work, renovation is undergoing, and soon we can start to cook what we know best, Southern Italian food.
    We certainly look forward to welcome old followers, and new friends to The Leopard. Untill then, please come to visit us at Il Gattopardo, and Buon Appetito! All the Best, Paula Bolla Sorrentino

  6. So pleased to see your post, Paula, and to see that the Cafe will once again have life. I am working on a book about Howard Chandler Christy. It is something I wanted to do over two decades ago when I was a freshman in college, but the resources were not there. In the last decade, the resources emerged in many different forms. My research is nearly completed and I am mid-way through the writing. I was fortunate to have met and interviewed several of his female models. I also have interviewed several of Christy's relatives and gave the keynote address at his boyhood home in June 2009. If there is anything that I may offer, please let me know. Best regards, Jim Head (

  7. It's nice to see the cafe back in Italian hands.
    The cafe was owned in the 1940's by the Victor Sterlini, who was a WWI Aplino, Ardito commando Sargent...hence affectionately known as the "Sargent." He was a very close friend of Howard and Nancy Christy.

    I knew Howard & Nancy Christy.
    While attending Fordham, I worked at the Cafe and as an elevator operator.
    One day on the elevator Christy looked at me and said "You're Italian!...I painted Mussolini." I said "Wow!" Christy continued:
    "When Mussolini saw the finished piece he said "Mucho Bello!" I smiled and said "no! no! It's molto bello!"
    Every time I saw Christy thereafter until the day he passed away, he would raise his index finger, smiling and greeted me with "MOLTO BELLO!" I loved him. I still own his "Barnigat Bay" painting that Nancy gave me after he passed away.