Sardi's caricatures

Sardi's caricatures
In 1927, when Vincent Sardi reopened his restaurant on 44th Street, he covered his walls with caricatures, in imitation of a popular Parisian eatery. Although bohemian cafés throughout the Western world had hung amusing portraits, Sardi's walls resonated with theatrical glamour. With mock solemnity, Sardi signed a contract with artist Alex Gard to exchange caricatures for daily meals. Pledging not to criticize either the drawings or the food, they launched a relationship that resulted in 720 portraits over the next twenty years.

The Sardi's subjects were invariably connected to the theater or the arts. Harsh distortions often made the faces ugly, but the celebrity subjects rarely complained. The pictures created the atmosphere of a theatrical club where scripts were exchanged, interviews conducted, romances pursued. Celebrity-seeking tourists dined surrounded by the colorful glamour of the entertainment district. As Sardi's came to epitomize the Broadway ethos, film and stage designers replicated the caricature walls for many a theater scene, and other restaurants hired staff artists to limn the features of the famous.

Sardi's caricatures
Alex Gard (1900-1948)
Ink and watercolor drawings
Billy Rose Theatre Collection, New York Public Library, New York,
Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

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