Food in Painting: From the Renaissance to the Present

by Kenneth Bendiner

From the publisher: Food in Painting is a sumptuous exploration of food images in European and American painting from the early Renaissance to the present. Kenneth Bendiner sees such images as a separate classification of art, with its own history, and offers novel reconsiderations of famous works by the likes of Bruegel, Rembrandt, Chardin, Manet and Warhol, and some intriguing paintings by less well-known artists, such as Adriaen Coorte and Peter Blume.

The book underlines the central importance of sixteenth century innovations in food subjects, and the great influence of seventeenth century Dutch food paintings in the development of food imagery. It covers aphrodisiacs, bottled water, menus, anti-social eating scenes, dogs in the dining room and many other visual representations relating to food. It also deals with images of food that are purely symbolic, the sexual references of Surrealist food art, and food as a marginal element in allegories, showing the optimistic, human-centred, Renaissance spirit of food, and the way abundance, success and fulfilment pervade this art.

Drawing together two attractive and engrossing subjects – eating and handsome paintings – Bendiner offers up a tempting and irresistible feast of facts and images. Those who want to learn about the history of food, as recorded in images, will find the book rewarding. And those who wonder what Bruegel’s peasants are eating, or why Chardin decorated a brioche with an orange blossom, will find their understanding of art history enriched.

Kenneth Bendiner is Professor of Art History at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and is the author of An Introduction to Victorian Painting (1985) and The Art of Ford Madox Brown (1998).

Reaktion Books, 2004