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|The Prints of Luis Quintanilla:
A Catalogue Raisonné
|Catalogue Entry #: 53
Title: Boogie Woogie in Cafe Society*
Series: New York Prints ("Life in Manhattan")
Edition: Currently Unknown (CU)****
Dimensions: 13 1/4 x 9 1/2 in. (34.3 x 24.1 cm)
Signature: See below.*****
The proposed but never published book "Life in Manhattan" was intended to be Quintanilla's "poetic/artistic commentary on the myriad scenes" he encountered as he first experienced New York. The exiled artist arrived in the United States from facist Spain as the Spanish Civil War was ending and was fascinated by his new city, so different from Madrid and anything he had known in Europe (Quintanilla, Paul. Art and World of Luis Quintanilla).
As a precursor to this set of visual impressions of Manhattan, "the artist created at least 140 small sketches on scraps of paper," hasty studies performed as he wandered about the city. (To view a sampling of these sketches from Paul Quintanilla's website "The Art and World of Luis Quintanilla," please click here.) The only images actually intended for inclusion in the never published book are eleven lithographs, Boogie Woogie at Cafe Society being one of them. To view thumbnails of all eleven lithographs, click here.
*Title and other annotations: At least one impression of each of the "Life in Manhattan" lithographs is titled in pencil (hand-printed), l.l. or l.c. (here lower left), just below the image. (See immediately below.) Although it is uncertain if these titles are in the artist's hand, they were undoubtedly known to him and are hence accepted as the titles of the lithographs for this catalogue raisonné.
**Date: The c.1940 dating for Quintanilla's "Life in Manhattan" lithographs is currently based on the date, 1940, inscribed on the Museum of Modern Art's impression of the lithograph, Museum of Modern Art, a print from this series. No other observed impressions from the series are dated, but as they were all created for the same project, the date of one can likely be attributed to the others.
***Medium: MoMA's catalogue entry for its impression of the Museum of Modern Art from this series says, "Lithograph printed from two zinc plates." Given the similarity of technique found in all of the "Life in Manhattan" series lithographs, it is likely they were all made in a similar fashion.
****Edition: Very little is known regarding an edition number for any of the lithographs from the "Life in Manhattan" series. One or two impressions of each image exist in the estate of the artist, while only a few impressions of lithographs from the series have been located outside of the estate.
*****Signature: Signed impressions from "Life in Manhattan" have rarely been observed; however, MoMA's impression of Museum of Modern Art as well as one other impression of that print bear a pencil signature. So do at least two impressions of Rockefeller Center and one of Washington Square.
Presumably Quintanilla drew the image on the lithographic plate using the above drawings as studies. It is easy to see how the pianist, lower left in the lithograph, appears in reverse orientation from the drawing as a result of the printing process.
Setting: At the time of the composition of this lithograph, Cafe Society, at Two Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village, New York City, was a pioneering jazz nightclub operated by Barney Josephson. It opened in January, 1939, the same month Quintanilla arrived in New York as an exile from Franco's Spain, Billie Holiday, a radical figure in her own right, introduced the legendary and racially charged song "Strange Fruit" there. The club, "the world's boogie woogie piano center," was one of the earliest to integrate Blacks and Whites on the bandstand as well as in the audience. Quintanilla was introduced to Cafe Society by his close friend the writer Eliot Paul who escorted the Spanish artist and soldier for The Republic through New York's "subterranean night world." Paul himself studied boogie woogie with two of its masters, Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson. (Paul Quintanilla, Waiting at the Shore, Vol. 1, 199.) The three pianists in Quintanilla's lithograph are most likely Ammons, Johnson and Meade "Lux" Lewis (See photos immediately below.) who constituted The Boogie Woogie Trio, and were the club's main attraction when it first opened (Zwingenberger, Rare Live Cuts).
From 1943 until leaving the United States in 1958, Quintanilla lived in Greenwich Village on west Eighth street, a short walk from Cafe Society.
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