GUILD IN THE PRESS
Barroom Murals Reflect the Intoxicating Brew of New Orleans Life.
By Doug MacCash
Lagnaippe, April 21, 2000
IN A CITY SO RICH IN VISUAL ARTS and so well known for its drinking
establishments, it should come as no surprise that occasionally the
two overlap. There's no need to dwell on how often and in what numbers
area artists have gotten lost in the labyrinths of local saloons. Instead,
our time would be best spent on the marvelous works of art that can
often be found by raising our eyes above the rim of a cocktail glass
or beer mugespecially the murals that were created specifically
for the barrooms where they reside.
The notion for this article came about six months ago with a poignant
event. In mid-November; as you probably recall, Peristyle,
the elegant bistro at the edge of the French Quarter (1041 Dumaine St.)
was damaged by a fire that began in the apartment above it I was immediately
concerned about the mural that rose behind the bottles of the bar and
continued into the dining room. The subject of the painting was a long-ago
view of City Park, including the Peristyle, the stone colonnade shelter
for which the restaurant was named, charmingly rendered in soft, earthen
colors in an earnest, naive style.
No, the painting was not damaged by the fire directly; it was darkened
by smoke and softened by water, but it could be saved. And there was
another positive note as well. When the mural was removed from the wall,
hidden beneath a fold of canvas behind the bar was the unknown artist's
name: Ferdinand Martin. Martin, a sign-painter, had executed the mural
in 1918 or thereabouts for the now-demolished DeSoto Hotel on Poydras
Street and St. Charles Avenue. In 197O, Marti Shambra purchased the
salvaged mural for his well-know bistro Marti's the site of the
current Peristyle, which opened in 1991.
It's a good thing for Peristyle fans that the murals weren't ruined,
because Tom Sand, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, chef Anne
Kearney, said, "These paintings were so important to us that we
decided we wouldn't reopen without them." They plan to reopen in
July with murals newly restored by the New Orleans Conservation Guild.
The near loss of the Peristyle mural led me to consider the wealth of
barroom murals in New Orleans, some of which are masterpieces, as well-executed
and involving as museum pieces. What follows is a list of Crescent Cirv
barroom murals not to miss.