Food-related assignments and bibliography

The topic of food can offer undergraduates a rich and satisfying experience in art historical research! This year AHTR was asked to support the call for participation at a special CAA lunch session, designed by Karen Leader and Amy Hamlin (founders of Art History That) as part of “Interventions in the Future of Art History,” a day of interactive panels on Saturday, February 18, 2017.   

While we all enjoy meaty, well-written papers, we encourage assignments that move students beyond the traditional: interdisciplinary collaboration, performances and reconstructions, digital formats and multi-modal presentations can be well suited to demonstrate intellectual understanding in engaging ways and feed our appetite for innovative pedagogy. Below are few prompts to get the creative juices flowing followed by a brief “food in art” bibliography. Feel free to adapt them to create your assignment, or add your own ideas to this shared Google doc. Bon appétit!

  • How do works of art function as primary sources informing us about the history of food–its cultivation, preparation, consumption, cultural function, and value?
  • Discuss rituals involving food.  What art historical evidence exists to give us insight to the social and religious roles of food in different cultures and geographic regions?  How have artists employed food or otherwise exploited its ritualistic function toward their own creative purpose and ideas?
  • Consider food as a popular subject within the historical genre of still life. How have representations of food changed over time, and how has this affected the meaning and perceptions ascribed to these works? What might comparison of historical examples with #foodporn posts on Instagram or Twitter yield in this regard?
  • What do images of food tell us about historical global networks of exchange and social economies? How do these works enlighten us to questions about class, race, gender, and to artistic patronage and collecting practices?
  • In what ways might food in art intersect with historical representations of the body? Consider artists’ use of food as a trope for issues of materiality, sensuality, consumption, and need.
  • What conversations might be explored between creative practice in visual studies and the culinary arts? What inspiration does art provide food producers, and how does their work feed back into the art world.
  • Consider the ways in which contemporary food advertising has – consciously or not – pressed art history into service. What do the (mis)appropriations suggest not just about our consumer habits, but also our ways of seeing?


Boger, Ann C. Consuming Passions: The Art of Food and Drink : the Cleveland Museum of Art, July 26-October 9, 1983, Kenneth C. Beck Center for the Cultural Arts, December 28, 1983-February 28, 1984, the Beachwood Museum, March 3-April 15, 1984. Cleveland, Ohio: Extensions Division, Dept. of Art History and Education, Cleveland Museum of Art, 1983. 

Clifton, Claire. The Art of Food: Culinary Inspirations from the Paintings of the Great Masters. Secaucus, N.J: Wellfleet Press, 1988. 

Malaguzzi, Silvia. Food and Feasting in Art. Trans. Brian Phillips. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006.

Novero, Cecilia.  Antidiets of the avant-garde: from Futurist cooking to Eat art. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2010. 

Reed, Marcia. The Edible Monument: The Art of Food for Festivals, Exh. Cat. LA: Getty, 2015. 

Riley, Gillian. Food in Art: From Prehistory to the Renaissance, London : Reaktion Books, 2015 

Supples, Peter, ed. Art and Food, Newcastle upon Tyne, [England]: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014. e-book

Telfer, Elizabeth. “Food.” Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed August 20, 2016,

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