My friend and fellow former teacher and visual artist David Zukas and I have looked at, critiqued and discussed art for many years. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the history of food in visual art and I couldn’t think of anybody better to share his thoughts on the matter with all of you than David. Food photography, like many other forms of the discipline has certainly taken it’s cue from the portrayals of subject matter in master works of art. Here, David selects 11 fantastic examples of food in art for us to discuss and debate.
You have met David before here at mSS… in prior posts about his charity work in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake and when I outlined his experiences with food while in the Peace Corps in the 1990′s. David has a new exhibit being shown during the month of September at ETG Book Cafe on Staten Island. The opening will be a part of Second Saturday Staten Island Exhibit on 9/11/10 from 7-9 pm.
Feast For Your Eyes by David Zukas
Food in fine art has a compelling, nay consuming history. Ancient Egyptian food art nourished those in the afterlife. During the Renaissance fruits and vegetables explained myths, erotic metaphors, and allegories. The food painting movement essentially began with 17th century Dutch paintings that featured a variety of food fare praised for meticulous detail. Toward the modern era Post Impressionist Paul Cezanne was renowned for his still life paintings of fruit. Instead of giving you all the boring details of food in all of art history, I will highlight my top eleven food related works in art. This is not an attempt at a definitive list and is in no particular order. It is more of an attempt to begin a discussion and hopefully incite responses of your own favorite food related works.
Andy Warhol, detail of 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962
How could I not include Andy Warhol? No matter what crazy quotes you find from the former shoe designer, for me he made a powerful statement about consumerism and the impact of advertising in an era that included hippies, black power, the women’s liberation movement and the first televised war, Vietnam.
Arcimboldo painted portraits in the Renaissance made up of objects related to his sitter and believe it or not looked like them.
Thiebaud is most famous for painting lush creamy desserts. This one is at the Whitney and I recommend you see it in person to better appreciate the impasto technique (thick painterly brushstroke). I don’t recommend licking the canvas.
This is not a photograph, it is a painting. For many artists, the reason for painting ordinary objects like food is simply to demonstrate their compositional skill, lighting techniques, or to show how well they can make these items come to life on canvas. Ralph Goings takes painting to another level.
Claes Olderberg produces colossal sculptures that amaze with wit, humor and metaphor. Much of his work includes hard-edged objects morphing to soft and vice versa.
Even though Cezanne’s apples represent a still life in the real world, we are never allowed to forget we are looking at paint, lines and color on a flat canvas. This was essential to abstraction and the reason why Impressionism and Post-Impressionism mark the beginning of modern painting.
Probably the most famous work to come out of the women’s movement, Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party pays homage to women who were ignored, underrated or omitted from history books. The place settings depict ceramic vaginas in various period styles.
Oppenheim created the ultimate Surrealist piece by placing gazelle fur over a teacup, saucer and spoon. She created a disconcerting and repulsive object that triggers associations with eroticism, sensuality and desire.
Another Surrealist master, Dali, portrays two people embraced in a kiss. Food and emotions devour each other in this masterpiece. There are certain Dali’s in which I revel and return to discover something new every time.
Frida Kahlo’s work is known for self portraits depicting the pain and suffering she experienced in real life. Her passion always came through on canvas and interestingly enough, her final paintings were of fruit. You might want to pick up the book Frida’s Fiestas written by Frida Kahlo’s stepdaughter (from Diego Rivera). It includes some interesting stories and recipes.
Courbet’s paintings of common people and common things were in rebellion to the 19th Century Romantic bourgeoisie. It is difficult not to feel the pain of the trout as it pulls from the hook. His harsh reality of life imagery was avant-garde for its time and reflected the social turmoil. This painting has a special place for me because I grew up loving and respecting nature through trout fishing taught by my father and grandfather.
Get in on the debate. What did I miss? What are your favorite food related artworks?