Friday, August 28, 2009



It was a little over five years ago and I was seventy-one years old.
I was newly retired from a California professor's role, living happily by the tempestuous and rocky Pacific and then, rather abruptly, set down in the new and unfamiliar green and humid blandness of the Carolinas.
Fortunately, I found the solace of daily intellectual challenge in pursuing art history.
On my own. Just me, the local libraries, and my computer. Eventually I found informed scholars and artists to consult, but not many. Only last year did I find the joyous excitement of art history classes with the noted contemporary art scholar, Jae Emerling at UNCC.

My point here is that whoever has the least interest in food as a topic can acquire and enjoy a fairly substantial acquaintance and understanding of Western art by following Food Images in the Arts.

As I did. Just follow the food.

Both food and art are hot topics today. Only one is generally a part of our local colloquy but there are certain personal gains.

This blog is constructed as a way to organize, review, synthesize and consolidate my discoveries. I had chosen my path partly from previous scholarly experiences with food or foodways within the social science field of material culture (wherein lies some of my PhD work), and partly because, doggone it, I had just been in love with the visual arts from my earliest years.

This morning is a wonderful example.

There I am at the breakfast table, part way through my second cup of coffee and the New York Times' Weekend Arts section, and my eye falls upon an announcement of a new exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Because I am ever searching for commentary about art and possibly because I had visited there two years ago, I plunged into "Adventures in Modern Art: The Charles K. Williams II Collection, through September 13." [NYTimes, August 28, 2009, p. C19].

One article focused on that first star of contemporary art, Marcel Duchamp, who is the center-piece for this exhibit. The other reviewer dealt more broadly the other images, many from the 1930's Great Depression era. I had just scanned that art period in May so I looked more closely for familiar names and there they were, all Modernists of one stripe or another: Arthur Dove, the Futurist Joseph Stella,
Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth, Ben Shahn, Isabel Bishop, the Synchronist Max Weber, and wild Philip Guston. All, at one time or another, had painted food images or food-related environments, and they were old friends. And then, Thomas Hart Benton's "Apple of Discord,"(1949).

Only last week I posted some comments on my blog under the title Apples with Issues. And here is my point:

While I had studied rather thoroughly on my own and could gather but few new facts about that painting, I was impressed by the clarity and cohesion of the author's professional writing. Here is the way Karen Rosenberg put things, and you may compare her smooth phrasing to my stumbling efforts in my earlier post, APPLES (below):

Another standout is Thomas Hart Benton's Apple of Discord (1949), a large tempera painting that conflates Greek mythology and the Bible, Renaissance composition and postwar screen-goddess glamour. (The female subject, Aphrodite/Eve has a pompadour and peep-toe pumps.)

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