For the Thanksgiving holiday, we have selected the finest cornucopias of colors and tasteful textures for the most discerning palates. Organized by three elements of a feast — Ingredients, the Table, and Community — this tasteful selection of paintings about food will get your creative juices flowing. We could have done one painting for each theme, but why stop there? We’ve served up extra helpings for a total of three for each. ‘Tis the season for indulgence! Whet your appetite with these sumptuous selections.
Mound of Butter by Antoine Vollon
Vollon was known for paintings of food, and this one of a mound of butter seems to presage the future in that it looks like parts of it could have been painted by — well — a butter knife. That would have been perfectly apt for the subject. However, other portions of the painting still capture a great amount of detail, such as the eggs and the texture of the wood. This creamy concoction would complement any table.
Apples and Oranges by Paul Cézanne
The Musée d’Orsay calls this “the most important still life produced by [the] artist in the late 1890s,” and it’s easy to see why. This painting is most known for its balance and structure. The colors of the apples and oranges liven up the dishes, and the textures of the fruit, the background drapery, and the floral images on the pitcher make for a composition that rolls smoothly across the palate.
La Raie by Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin
Chardin was known for taking everyday subjects and making them shine. Like a pairing of fig jam and a fine cheese, this painting shows that a good work is much more than the sum of its parts. A well-trained chef can work with whatever ingredients are on hand, and here Chardin served up seemingly disparate elements — a bottle, a frightened cat, oysters, and a butchered manta ray — in a very bold and balanced way.
Laid Table with Cheese and Fruit by Floris Claesz van Dijck
Why settle for just a cheese plate when you can fill the whole table? This composition is simply delectable. High notes of pale blue cheese, apple, and lace make up the foreground, the earthy tones of bread and cheese form a foundation in the middle, and the deep bass notes of black shore up the background. A hint of grape was added for balance.
Still Life with Ham, Lobster, and Fruit by Jan Davidsz. de Heem
The colors of the lobster, prawn, and apple are the stars of this luscious spread, and the ravishing attention to detail makes the crisp accents of apple and pear really pop. Add some fatty ham and grapes for balance, and this piece smacks of abundance.
A Table of Desserts by Jan Davidz. de Heem
This style of painting was known for its opulence, and here the artist spared no expense even in size: the piece measures nearly seven feet across. It’s only fitting that a painting of a table be the size of one, and the composition and the sense of texture are both pretty sweet.
The Potato Eaters by Vincent van Gogh
The meal itself is anything but ornate, and it takes a backseat to the sense of community, which is the backbone of any enjoyable holiday feast. Van Gogh masterfully renders it here with the visual metaphor of the light of one lamp that hangs above the center of the table. The muted tones mirror the understated nature of the dish.
The Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Mix one part nuptials, one part music, one part dinner, and one part wine. Shake festively and pour. Such seems to have been the recipe for this wedding. The color white is appropriately sprinkled throughout the festivities to bring balance and perspective.
The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese
This is one feast for the eyes that seems to have something for everyone — or maybe just everyone. In this depiction of Jesus turning water into wine, the size of the crowd signified wealth and power, which were also imparted on the dishes as well.