Major Exhibition 'Art and Appetite' Celebrates 250 Years of American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine in Chicago
This season, the Art Institute of Chicago invites visitors to feast their eyes on the rich tradition of food in American art with the opening of the major exhibition Art? and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine. Exploring the many meanings and interpretations of eating in America, Art and Appetite--on view from November 12, 2013 through January 27, 2014 in the museum's Regenstein Hall --brings together 100 paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the 18th through the 20th century to demonstrate how depictions of food have allowed American artists to both celebrate and critique everything from the national diet to society and politics. Following its premiere at the Art Institute, Art ?and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine will travel to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas (February 22-May 18, 2014).
Art and Appetite takes a new approach to American paintings of food, contextualizing them to rediscover the meanings they held for their makers and their public. Despite the prevalence of such works, research has rarely focused on the cultural significance?of the objects depicted in these paintings, nor has it addressed how these paintings embodied changing ideals throughout the nation's history. Thematically and chronologically organized, Art and Appetite breaks with the traditional histories of the genre to explore how it illuminates American attitudes about patriotism and politics, identity and gender, progress and history, and production and consumption. The exhibition examines the agricultural bounty of the "new world," Victorian-era excess, debates over temperance, the rise of restaurants and café culture, the changes wrought by 20th-century mass production, and much more-all represented in American art spanning 250 years. A wealth of fascinating materials are also showcased in the exhibition, including menus, cookbooks, advertisements, and decorative arts.
>From the earliest years of the United States, American artists such as Raphaelle Peale used still-life painting to express cultural, political, and social values, elevating the genre to a significant aesthetic language. Later, in antebellum America, depictions of food highlighted abundance, increasing wealth, and changing social roles, while elegant decanters of wine and spirits in still-life paintings by John F. Francis reflected the prevalence of drinking and the mid-century debates over temperance. During the Gilded Age, despite the implications of the term, American artists moved away from excess and eschewed high Victorian opulence in favor of painting the simple meal. Many artists, such as William Harnett or De Scott Evans, also used food pictures to serve up biting political commentary that addressed the social and economic transformations of the 1880s and 1890s.