Wednesday 24 February 2021

Food in Art: An Exploration

 In my project progress post, I stated that the next image that I was working on was about food and the end times.  Therefore in this piece of research, I will discuss food in art to look at how I might represent this in my own work. 

The key points I would like to explore for my own work are:

  • How do other artists depict food/eating in their work?
  • What can I learn from this and how will it help to inform my own work? 
  • Specifically, I would like to look at the composition. light and framing.
  • I also want to explore the context of these works as my own will be eating in isolation in the time of Covid 

To begin I will discuss the above image of The Potato Eaters as an example of this kind of depiction in art. Food in earlier art was often depicted in still life form on its own but by 19th century painters had begun to show people socialising around food such as the image above. Van Gogh painted this image to show solidarity with the poor and working people. 'He found in their common meal the occasion in which their humanity and moral beauty are strikingly revealed; they appear then as a close community, based upon work and the sharing of the fruits of work. The table is their altar and the food a sacrament for each one who has labored.' (Vincent Van Gogh 2009-2021) In this image, we can see the whole room, which demonstrates the poverty that they live in, the muted colours and simple meal though with the one light shining upon the table suggest intimacy and importance to the meal.  The faces of the subjects show happiness even in dire circumstances.  Meals together can create this kind of feeling sharing food has always been a way of connecting to our fellow travellers in life and Van Gogh really gets this feeling across to the viewer, looking in on this ordinary yet important meal.  

Pieter Bruegel (the elder) was a member of four generations of Netherlandish artists, his work often depicted the common people and how they lived in new and bold ways which humanised his subjects. 'In order to get source material for his paintings, it's alleged that Northern Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel disguised himself in peasant garb to sneak into events like the one above. (One of the earliest known wedding crashers, it seems.)' (First We Feast: 7th April 2015) Again he went against the tide of painters (particularly the Italian renaissance) to paint the ordinary man rather than people in high society.  This particular painting of a wedding shows the simple food of soup and porridge being served with wine. Again this simple meal shows the camaraderie of the working class and togetherness through eating together.  

In my own work I will be depicting something somewhat different in that times have changed enormously particularly at present and more and more people eat alone for a lonely meal.  In 2017 there were 7.7 million people in the UK living alone this is predicted to rise to 10.7 million by 2039 (The Office for National Statistics: 4th April 2019) With the pandemic obviously more people have had to isolate and therefore the rise in loneliness at this time has increased dramatically. The 'lockdown lonely have been reported 'From 3 April to 3 May 2020 30.9% of those asked said their well-being had been affected through feeling lonely in the past seven days, around 7.4 million people across Great Britain. We refer to this group as “lockdown lonely”. If we adjusted this to be representative of the entire Great British population this would be equivalent to 14.3%.' (Office for National Statistics (Office for National Statistics: 8th June 2020)

The Expressionists did not often depict themselves eating and the images of war are often horror and starvation so here I will share the Blind man's meal by Picasso in his Blue Period (1901-1904).  Picasso painted the disaffected, the blind, beggers and women in prison at this time. As can be seen here the blind man eats a simple meal of bread and water, his eyes downcast, the blue colours emphasising the sadness of this meal, bare walls and no tastes to enjoy. 

The Ascetic is very similar and he chooses to live this simple life and equally eats this simple meal alone looking into nothingness and not relishing anything of taste.  These images both struck me as the kind of image I would like to make in term of composition, pose and light.  I would like to capture this sense of loss and loneliness in the solitary meal.  This will be my next image that I will produce.  


Martinique E. (9th December 2019) Widewalls: Food in Art History: [Online] Available from: (Accessed 24/02/21)

Vincent Van Gogh (2009-2021) The Potato Eaters [Online Available from (Accessed 24/02/21)

First We Feast (7th April 2015) Iconic Food Paintings [Online] Available from: (Accessed 01/03/21)

Wiesse J. (October 2002) Met Museum: Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525–1569) [Online]  Available from: (Accessed 01/03/21)

Office for National Statistics (4th April 2019) The Cost of Living Alone [Online] Available from: (Accessed 01/03/21)

Office for National Statistics (4th April 2019) Coronavirus and loneliness, Great Britain: 3 April to 3 May 2020 [Online] Available from: (Accessed 01/03/21)

Pablo Picasso (2021) Pablo Picasso: Blue Period [Online] Available from: (Accessed 01/03/21)

Artsology (2021) Famous Meals in Art [Online] Available from: (Accessed 01/03/21)

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