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Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine

Thursday, November 12, 2013–Monday, January 27, 2014
Regenstein Hall
Member Previews: November 9–11

Elegant arrangements of cookies or cakes, lavish and overflowing arrays of fruits, or the remnants of a gluttonous feast—depictions of food in art certainly convey a passion for culinary delights. Yet, still-life paintings of edibles also speak volumes about their cultural context. American artists have used food to both celebrate and critique their developing society; express ideas relating to politics, race, class, gender, and commerce; and investigate American identity. This exhibition brings together over 100 paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the 18th through the 20th century, along with a selection of period cookbooks, menus, trade cards, and posters, to explore the art and culture of food and examine the many meanings and interpretations of eating in America.

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. In antebellum America, depictions of food highlighted abundance and increasing wealth. 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 or De Scott Evans, also used food pictures to serve up biting political commentary that addressed the social and economic changes 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 became increasingly important, described in the work of Stuart Davis and Gerald Murphy, even as Prohibition banned the consumption of alcohol.

Finally, during the 1950s and 1960s, Pop artists Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg addressed the ways in which mass production and consumption dramatically altered the American experience of food. Hamburgers, fries, and cakes were painted as objects of mass-produced comestibles without human referent. Artists employed new means to express their distance from the tangible reality of food, the visual power of advertising, the standardization of American meals from factory-produced products, and the gluttony 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 on the historical art of eating allows viewers to look at depictions of American food and culture with new meaning and fresh eyes.

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Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago.


Lead Corporate Sponsor

Major support is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art and an anonymous donor.

Additional funding is provided by Mr. and Mrs. Morris S. Weeden and the Suzanne and Wesley M. Dixon Exhibition Fund.

The exhibition catalogue is funded by The Jacob and Rosaline Cohn Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Wesley M. Dixon, Jr.

Annual support is provided by the Exhibitions Trust: Goldman Sachs, Kenneth and Anne Griffin, Thomas and Margot Pritzker, the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation, the Trott Family Foundation, and the Woman’s Board of the Art Institute of Chicago.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities.

From Sheepes Tongue Pie and Tomato Soup Cake to Graham Elliot's Seafood Chowder and Tony and Cathy Mantuano's Turkey with Grappa and Gemolata, our online cookbook celebrates Art and Appetite with over 50 recipes—both classic American dishes and innovative new offerings from Chicago's leading chefs.

Discover the following scrumptious recipes from Chicago's celebrated culinary leaders in our online cookbook.  

Karyn Calabrese, Karyn’s Raw Café, Karyn’s At Home, Karyn’s Cooked
Veggie Potato Pot Pies

Peter Coenen, The Gage
Baked Halibut en Persillade, Steamed Root Vegetables, Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Franco Diaz, Coq d’Or
Turkey and Chanterelles

Brian Duncan, Bin 36
Peach and Cranberry Bellini

Graham Elliot, Graham Elliot
Seafood Chowder

Paul Fehribach, Big Jones
Persimmon Pudding Pie

Erik Freeberg, Bar Toma
Eggplant Caponata with Dark Chocolate and Amaretto Cookie

Christian Gaborit, Filini Bar and Restaurant
Ricotta Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Shortbread, Pecan Caramel Corn, and Bourbon Caramel

Meg Galus, NoMI Kitchen
Chocolate Chunk Gingersnaps
Sweet Potato Pudding Bonbons

Jason Gorman, The Art Institute of Chicago
Mushroom Cheese Biscuits with Pine Honey
Sweet Corn Spoonbread with Fried Tomatoes

Tim Graham, Travelle
Green Bean Casserole Dip

Billy Helmkamp, The Whistler
Autumn Sweater

Andrew Johnson, Balsan at the Waldorf Astoria Chicago
Honeycrisp Apple Fritter with Apple Cider Frozen Yogurt

Paul Kahan, Blackbird, Publican Quality Meats, avec, The Publican, Big Star
Lobster Thermidor Sausage with Wild Mushrooms, Mussels, and Sea Beans

Douglas Katz, fire food and drink
Creamed Chicken à la King
Eggplan Reuben

Bill Kim, BellyQ, Urban Belly, Belly Shack
Tea-Smoked Duck Breast with Crispy Sticky Rice Risotto

Edward Kim, Ruxbin
Holiday Fruitcake/Pie

Michael Kornick, mk
Butter-Poached Maine Lobster, Ricotta Gnocchi, and Creamed Spinach

Eden Laurin, The Violet Hour
Ginger the Housekeeper

Eric Mansavage, Farmhouse Chicago
"Old-Fashioned" Fruitcake with Blood Orange Custard

Tony Mantuano, Spiaggia, Café Spiaggia, Terzo Piano, Bar Toma, Lorenzo
Turkey with Grappa and Gremolata

Cory Morris, Mercat a la Planxa
Apple-Cranberry Fall-Spiced Spanish Brandy with Pimms

Carrie Nahabedian, NAHA and Brindille
Early Winter Blancmange with Flavors of Vibrant Cauliflower, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Juniper, and Pine

Megan Neubeck, Terzo Piano
Spicy Peanut Soup

Clint Rogers, The Dawson
Gift to Be Humble Cocktail

Joseph Rose, Lockwood Restaurant & Bar
Bertha’s Famous Brownie

Yves Roubaud, Shaw’s Crab House
Oysters Rockefeller

Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster Harlem, Ginny’s Super Club, American Table Café and Bar, Kitchen and Table, Norda
Helga's Meatballs
Chicken Nuggets with Rooster Hot Sauce
Pear-Pumpkin Salad

Adam Seger, mixologist, CCP
Homemade Ginger Beer Spiked with Guest's Choice of American Craft Spirits
Christopher Morley Cocktail
Hot Rum Flip

Mark Steuer, Carriage House
Cornbread with Foie Gras Butter and Pear Marmalade

Heather Terhune, Sable Kitchen and Bar
Pumpkin Mousse Tart

Lee Wolen, The Lobby at the Peninsula Chicago
Molasses Cake with Foie Gras Mousse and Rosemary