Meat And Booze With A Side Of Still Life: American Painters On Food
Posted: December 6, 2013
In Peter Blume's Vegetable Dinner, 1927, two women, one peeling potatoes, one smoking a cigarette, whisper at the crossroads between domestic and bohemian life, says Sarah Kelly Oehler of the Art Institute of Chicago. (Smithsonian American Art Museum, Art © The Educational Alliance, Inc./Estate of Peter Blume/Licensed byVAGA New York, NY)
Doris Lee's Thanksgiving, circa 1935, was, even then, a nostalgic look back at the quintessential American food holiday. "At a time of economic struggle,Thanksgiving offered a creation story for the nation that could unify the population around a familiar meal of turkey, stuffing, and all the trimmings," says Oehler. (Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Purchase Prize Fund)
Francis W. Edmonds' The Epicure, 1838, is one of the earliest depictions of a tavern meal in American history, says Judith A. Barter, curator of American art at the Art Institute of Chicago. She says it represents America at a political crossroads between urban and rural ways of life and styles of government. (The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund)
Raphaelle Peale is considered the first American professional still-life painter. His Still Life - Strawberries, Nuts, &c., 1822, exemplifies early American efforts to showcase the bounty of North America. (Gift of Jamee J. and Marshall Field)
Roy Lichtenstein's comical, impersonalTurkey, 1961, is an example of how he "did not simply mirror the ubiquitous presence of food imagery in American society but questioned its power to shape visual understanding of the world," says Oehler. (Private collection. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein)
Edward Hopper's iconic Nighthawks, 1942, embodies the increasing isolation of young professionals in the cities, and stands in sharp contrast to Norman Rockwell's Freedom From Want, depicting a loving couple bringing a giant turkey to the family table, painted the same year. (Friends of American Art Collection)
Wayne Thiebaud's Salad, Sandwiches and Dessert, 1960. Pop artists like Thiebaud and Andy Warhol "referenced commercial food culture to underscore questions of art making, originality, and the value of the handmade in their work," says Barter. (Lent by Sheldon Museum of Art © Wayne Thiebaud/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY)
In the age of celebrity chef fetishism and competitive ingredient sourcing, it can be hard to remember that there was a time when restaurants didn't exist in America. Link to the original Ideastream.org article
Before the Civil War, most people ate at home, consuming mostly what they could forage, barter, butcher or grow in the backyard. But just because food choices were simpler back then doesn't mean our relationship to what we ate was any less complicated.
Food as a symbol of politics, diet, gender roles, technology, isolation, gluttony and blatant commercialism has, in fact, been with us for ages and in many forms.