Food and Art

Art History and Food: A Little Taster

First of all, thanks to all of you who have been reading Before the Art. I’ve just passed my first birthday with the blog and I’ve learned so much and encountered some amazing minds. Whether you’re a guest writer or a casual reader, thank you!

Recently I wrapped up my “mini-series” on art history and science. Now it’s time for another cross-disciplinary closer look.

Claes Oldburg, Pastry Case I, 1962. Burlap and muslin soaked in plaster, painted with enamel, metal bowls, and ceramic plates in glass-and-metal case, 52.7 x 76.5 x 37.3 cm, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Claes Oldburg, Pastry Case I, 1962. Burlap and muslin soaked in plaster, painted with enamel, metal bowls, and ceramic plates in glass-and-metal case, 52.7 x 76.5 x 37.3 cm, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Over the next few months I will be exploring art history and food.

You’ve probably noticed similarities between the two subjects in everyday life.

Giuseppi Arcimboldo, Autumn, 1569. Oil on canvas, H. 0.77 m; W. 0.63 m, Louvre, Paris.

Giuseppi Arcimboldo, Autumn, 1569. Oil on canvas, H. 0.77 m; W. 0.63 m, Louvre, Paris.

For example, has anyone ever told you that art nourishes the soul (or something along those lines)? Not only is great art supposed to be in some way satisfying, those who appreciate it are considered tasteful.

Andy Warhol Hamburger, 1985-1986 acrylic on canvas 50 x 66 x 1 1/4 in. (127 x 167.6 x 3.2 cm.) The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh

Andy Warhol, Hamburger, 1985-1986, acrylic on canvas 50 x 66 x 1 1/4 in. (127 x 167.6 x 3.2 cm.) The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh

Frans Snyders, Kitchen Still Life with a Maid and a Young Boy, c. 1650. Oil on canvas, 94 1/2 x 60 in, The Getty

Frans Snyders, Kitchen Still Life with a Maid and a Young Boy, c. 1650. Oil on canvas, 94 1/2 x 60 in, The Getty

And even the casual viewer of MasterChef will know that the presentation of food – how it looks on the plate – is almost as important as how it tastes.

Heather Meldrom and Michelle Gatton, Jackson Pollock “Rice Krispie Treats” Photo © Sarah Anne Ward

Heather Meldrom and Michelle Gatton, Jackson Pollock “Rice Krispie Treats” Photo © Sarah Anne Ward

Food has long been a subject of artistic effort. Often food, from bread and wine to gourds and hamburgers can be deeply symbolic. It can signify religion, ritual, sexuality, wealth mortality and personal identity.

Paul Gauguin, Woman Holding a Fruit, 1893. Oil on canvas 92.5 x 73.5 cm, The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Paul Gauguin, Woman Holding a Fruit, 1893. Oil on canvas 92.5 x 73.5 cm, The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Jacopo Bassano,The Last Supper, c. 1546. Oil on Canvas, 168 × 270 cm Gallaria Borghese.

Jacopo Bassano,The Last Supper, c. 1546. Oil on Canvas, 168 × 270 cm Gallaria Borghese.

However, often food is often simply itself. Fruit is added to give colour, texture, form and depth to an image. Drink is used to demonstrate artistic skill by representing liquid in paint.

There are a lot of great resources out there on the subject now, so if you can’t wait for me to get started, go have a look around for yourself.

Roman "Messy Floor" or "Scraps" mosaic. signed by Heraklitos, from Vigna Lupi, Rome, 2nd century, in the Vatican Museum.

Roman “Messy Floor” or “Scraps” mosaic. signed by Heraklitos, from Vigna Lupi, Rome, 2nd century, in the Vatican Museum.

As is often the case the Met Museum website has a rich and varied section on Food and Feasting. The blog Feasting on Art is all about food and art history and is beautiful. Not only does it make great use of images it also has plenty of recipes to try. Another website,  The FOOD Museum, is still fairly new, but already some interesting stuff on it, including and beyond the art historical.

Joos van Cleeve and collaborator, Virgin and Child, 1525. Oil on panel, 28 3/8 x 21 1/4 in. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Joos van Cleeve and collaborator, Virgin and Child, 1525. Oil on panel, 28 3/8 x 21 1/4 in. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

If you interested in contributing to Before the Art, let me know via beforetheart@gmail.com and we’ll have a chat. Otherwise, just keep an eye out for a series of five posts on the history of art, of food and of their long relationship together.

Carl Warner, Great Wall of Pineapple.

Carl Warner, Great Wall of Pineapple.

Happy reading!

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