What about our own time? Do our great artists give us insight into life in our own kitchens and public dining spaces? Or has photography or some change in the role of art made such things obsolete?
|Norman Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post Cover, 1945.|
Big question: is Rockwell really comparable to Chardin, Steen, and other painters of the Dutch Golden Age or of Victorian scenes? I'm not very well-educated about art theory, but I say yes, he's quite similar in many ways, not just in his choices of every-day themes and subjects, but also in his ability and power as a visual communicator. Why get more theoretical about art than that?
|Edward Hopper, "Chop Suey" 1929|
In a few hundred years I think people who want to get a visual impression of dining in the 20th century will be as interested in these images as we are in Chardin's or Steen's depictions of their day. Yes, there were other styles of art than Hopper and Rockwell, styles that were in many ways more dominant -- and didn't depict any dining events or kitchen interiors, or in many cases didn't depict any recognizable objects.
|Georgia O'Keeffee's Kitchen, 1961|
Did she ever paint anything about the food? I can't find anything except a few still-life studies, which I never consider to be real food paintings. She concentrated on amazing abstractions of the scenery outside her windows, as well as the close-ups of flowers and other items that were her trademark. Upon seeing the actual landscapes around her homes when I visited there, I was overwhelmed by how similar to the actual views were her representations of the barren but colorful mountains with scrubby plants and unfamiliar rocky outcroppings.
O'Keeffee was very original in her work, and exacting in her choices of subject matter. If she didn't paint scenes inside the kitchen (a lack that I can't actually prove) there were no doubt very good reasons why not. I'm glad she was an accomplished cook, along with being an artist!
As the 20th century progressed, art movements developed thick and fast. I've always found the swift progression of ideas to be fascinating. Pop art is one of my favorites, and its inclusion of kitchen and dining images is one of its most famous features. Normally, you'd think of Andy Warhol and Tomato Soup Cans. I also want to think about how it's reflected in the work of Duane Hanson (1925-1996) and George Segal (1924-2000). Hanson worked in resin and mixed media, so his works look so real that they are startling, while Segal made casts of actual people but left the gauze and other casting materials in place, resulting in ghostly statues. Both are hard to grasp in little photos, but here are a few:
|Duane Hanson, "Woman Eating," 1971|
|Duane Hanson, "Supermarket Shopper," 1970|
|George Segal, "Restaurant" -- one of many on this theme,|
often compared to works by Hopper
I have barely begun exploring this topic, which is obviously enormous and full of additional opportunities to see what artists have made of our everyday lives.