Food as Art

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It’s astounding how many artists depict food and express the many aspects of food through the beauty of still life.  Think of Rembrandt’s hanging carcass of beef, or the Picasso painting of bread, or the food art of Wayne Thiebaud, one of my favorites.  It’s exciting to capture the ideas of artists from different eras and to notice the changes in cooking habits, processes, and food appreciation.  Food, be it visual or edible, is a consuming interest to many.  The range of recipes in this book is like artists’ work, from haute cuisine to simple dishes; everything from hamburger stroganoff and key lime pie, to stuffed squid with beurre blanc, and vermicelli with caviar.  The book is a feast for the palate and eye uniting the art of painting, photography, and gastronomy.  There are more than two hundred superb recipes from appetizers to desserts with some unique specialties from California. 
Wayne Thiebaud “Pies, Pies, Pies,” 1961
As you can see, I love the food art of Wayne Thiebaud.  His work is so wonderfully vivid, it makes you want to not just view the painting, but to lick it!  The artist at one time worked in restaurants, and said it was a world he lived in and understood.  The classic food paintings usually feature comfort foods, many of them nostalgic and familiar.  He said of his food in the paintings, “They’re available in almost every place in America.  Same buffet spread is almost everywhere.”  Thiebaud’s paintings remind me of Edward Hopper in that both of their painting styles are very American,  like an everyplace America that its citizens experience, and a commonality that we have across the country.

Wayne Thiebaud “Cakes and a Counter,” 1962
Wayne Thiebaud “Plate of Hors d’ Oeuvres,” 1963
Wayne Thiebaud “Hot Dog,” 1969
There are many art museums that have published cookbooks because it makes perfect sense to do so.  Food can be art, and art can be food.  If you love both, I hope you can find this cookbook.  You will not only enjoy the art, but also the artists’ remarks about their paintings and inspirations. 
I found this wonderful video from an old CBS Sunday Morning segment.  It is (who else?!) Wayne Thiebaud talking about his paintings.  He is now 91 years old and still alive, and I hope, still painting.  I wonder what piece of culinary Americana he is painting now?

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