Whilst the subject of my discussion today, food and art, may not constitute a discipline, I feel it does constitute a critical context for my personal practice.
Food is essential to existence and the act of eating engages so many senses: sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing.
It is therefore unsurprising that food has been a prevalent subject for artists since early man began to record his environment in the form of cave paintings.
The following image shows an Egyptian stela depicting, in the upper right section, an altar laden with food offerings.
Limestone Stela of Penbuy (19th Century: c. 1292 – 1187 BC)
As man’s ability to portray the world around him became more sophisticated the images he produced became not only more refined but also more definite in terms of the subject being illustrated, in effect becoming less of an environmental depiction and more subject specific. The following image shows a Roman wall painting featuring eggs, thrushes, napkins and vessels – an early example of a still life.
Roman Wall Painting with Thrushes and Eggs, House of Julia Felix, Pompeii
(Early 1st Century A. D.)
Still life as a genre gained much popularity during the Renaissance. Subsequently, both still life and the food in art movements spread through Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries before ultimately becoming an early global phenomenon. Rembrandt’s “Carcass of Beef” (1657) is a fine example of the kitchen and marketplace type work of which was particularly prevalent amongst Dutch artists.
Rembrandt, 1657. Carcass of Beef
Samuel John Peploe’s “Still Life with Melon” (c. 1920) is a slightly more contemporary example of food and art working in harmony.
Samuel John Peploe, c. 1920. Still-life with Melon
Food has shown great longevity as a popular subject for artist’s and I feel this is due to a number of reasons which include: visual viewing pleasure, a display of status, and a form of documenting life.
I think, therefore, that it was inevitable that food photography would ultimately develop as a genre in its own right.