Amon Carter Museum of American Art Celebrates 250 Years of Painting, Culture and Cuisine with the Exhibition Art and Appetite

Release date: 
December 11, 2013

FORT WORTH, Texas—This spring, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art invites visitors to feast their eyes on the rich tradition of food in American art with the opening of the exhibition Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine. Exploring the many meanings and interpretations of eating in America, Art and Appetite brings together 65 paintings from the 18th through the 20th centuries to demonstrate how depictions of food have allowed American artists to both celebrate and critique everything from trends in the national diet to the broader issues of society and politics. Featuring many iconic works by such noted artists as Edward Hopper, Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol, the exhibition is on view from February 22 through May 18, 2014. Art and Appetite is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago; admission is free.

Art and Appetite takes a different approach to the subject of food in American art, contextualizing works to rediscover the meanings they held for their makers and their audiences. Despite the prevalence of works about food, research has rarely focused on the cultural significance of the objects depicted in these paintings, nor has it addressed how these images 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 these works illuminate American attitudes about patriotism and politics, identity and gender, progress and history, and production and consumption. The exhibition examines 250 years of American art, from the agricultural bounty of the “new world” to Victorian-era excess, debates over temperance, the rise of restaurants and café culture, the changes wrought by 20th-century mass production, and much more.

From the earliest years of the newly established 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 the antebellum era, 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 reflect 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 and De Scott Evans, also used images of food to serve up biting political commentary that addressed the social and economic transformations of the 1880s and 1890s.

In the 20th century new ways of eating and socializing began to change depictions of food in art. Restaurant dining—still novel in the United States in the late 19th century—became a common subject in the works of William Glackens, John Sloan and others. Café and cocktail culture, described in the work of Stuart Davis and Gerald Murphy, became increasingly important even as Prohibition banned the consumption of alcohol. Modern artists employed food in their radically new explorations of pictorial form, all the while challenging national ideals of family and home. Finally, during the 1950s and 1960s, Pop artists, among them Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, addressed the ways in which mass production and consumption dramatically altered the American experience of food. Hamburgers, fries and cakes were depicted as objects of mass-produced foodstuffs without human referent. Artists employed new means to explore the visual power of advertising, the standardization of factory-produced meals and the commercialization of American appetites.

Today, as professional and home chefs increasingly turn toward local, organic food and American society ponders its history as a fast-food nation, this exhibition offers visitors the chance to look at depictions of American food and culture with new meaning and fresh eyes.

Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine was organized by the Art Institute of Chicago. It is supported in part by generous contributions from Central Market, the Fort Worth Promotion and Development Fund, and the Ben E. Keith Foundation.

Thursday, February 27, 6–7 p.m.*
Designing Food Conversation

Find out how food stylists and photographers work together to design stunning and creative images of food.

Saturday, April 12, 1–3 p.m.*
Art Nosh Adult Program

Taste culinary creations specially prepared by local chefs and inspired by the exhibition Art and Appetite.

Thursday, April 17, 5:30–9:30 p.m.
Art in the Dark Community Program

Have fun with food during this exciting program that features art making, tours, films, and more inspired by the exhibition Art and Appetite.

*Reservations for these programs are required; registration opens the first day of the month prior to each program. Email or call 817.989.5030 to register.

Guided tours of Art and Appetite occur at 3:30 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. No reservations are required.