Art & Food, Food & Art

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This book review, on the salt (thanks NPR, USA) covers two books for the foodie/arts-oriented audience we sometimes find lurking here:

…We all need to eat, and our preferences are intensely personal. Yet food is often overlooked in the biographies of anyone who wasn’t a chef or gastronomic icon.

Two new books focusing on the culinary lives of artists — Monet’s Palate Cookbook, by Aileen Bordman and Derek Fell, and Dinner with Jackson Pollock, by Robyn Lea — show this to be an oversight. The artists’ approaches to food provide a new way of thinking about their very different approaches to art, and of understanding the artists themselves.

As Francesca Pollock, the artist’s niece, writes in Dinner‘s introduction, “He painted the same way he cooked: Endlessly using leftovers; keeping and re-using; trying one color or shape and then another. There was never ever any waste. Painting, like cooking, was a way of living.”…

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…Food only occasionally appears in Monet’s work, mostly in still-lifes. But though he never painted his private kitchen garden, at 2.5 acres, it was sizable in its own right, and surely at least as much a fixture in his life as its more famous blooming cousin. And Monet himself put a premium on food, according to the authors.

“Almost every franc that he earned, after taking care of his family’s welfare, he would spend on the freshest ingredients for meals and improving the interior and exterior of his house” — originally, a farmhouse and cider press, Bordman and Fell write. Monet, we learn, employed a cook, and his diet included eggs from his own chickens. He was actively involved in directing which vegetables were planted (he liked experimenting with new varieties), and which ones ended up on the dinner table…

…Neither of the books are pure biography, though they do delve into the artists’ private domestic lives. Filled with recipes — Pollock’s are drawn from his own collection, while those in the Monet book are inspired by his gardens and by French cuisine — the books give readers a peek into two famous kitchens.

Imagine Monet’s chef wandering out into the vast gardens to pick peaches and apples for a fruit gratin…

Read the whole review here.

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