Food Art: 10 Artworks That Will Make Your Mouth Water

Food and drinks have been shown in art throughout history. From Flemish still-life paintings to Claes Oldenburg's hamburger sculptures - take a look at these pieces of food art.

Feb 15, 2021By Dea Cvetković, BA and MA in Art History
president elect james rosenquist
President Elect by James Rosenquist, 1960, via James Rosenquist’s website


Food has been an inspiration for many artists throughout the history of art. Let’s look at various portrayals of different types of food in art – which we can call food art! From Pop Art paintings of desserts that will make your mouth water to moving portraits of a lover made out of candy, here are 11 pieces of art that will show you how food and art can mix together.


1. Claes Oldenburg’s Hamburger: Pop And Food Art

Floor Burger by Claes Oldenburg, 1962, via MoMA, New York


Claes Oldenburg is a famous Pop artist. His work titled the Floor Burger was created in 1962 for his installation The Store. For this installation, many pieces of food found in American culture were recreated as sculptures. At the installation, you could see a giant piece of chocolate cake or an oversized ice cream cone. This type of sculpture Oldenburg called soft-sculpture, since they were made to look fluffy, limp, soft, and inviting to touch. 


Oldenburg was one of the first artists to create sculptures within the Pop Art movement. Throughout his career, Oldenburg kept using everyday objects that were small in real life and recreated huge versions of them as artworks. And the food was a frequent inspiration for him! From pastries, hamburgers, to the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry food art project in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden that was created in collaboration with his wife Coosje van Bruggen. 


2. Clara Peeters’ Still-Life with Cheeses, Almonds And Pretzels 

Still-Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels by Clara Peeters, c. 1615, via The Mauritshuis, Den Haag



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Clara Peeters is one of the most important Flemish painters of still life. Not much is known about her life and most of the information we have about her comes from her paintings. We know that her first painting dates from 1607 and that she was most likely from Antwerp. A few of her paintings feature her signature inscribed on silver knives. In her works, Clara Peeters showed beautifully painted pieces of various foods like artichokes, cherries, pies, pretzels. In some of her paintings like Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds, and Pretzels, we can even see the reflection of the artists (her mini self-portrait) on the jug lid. She also frequently added flowers to her still life arrangements. Peeters is one of the most important still-life painters with beautifully created food art. Today we know of her 39 signed paintings. 


3.  Fruit and Vegetables With A Monkey, A Parrot, And A Squirrel By Frans Snyders

Fruit and Vegetables with a Monkey, a Parrot, and a Squirrel by Frans Snyders, c. 1620s, via The Louvre, Paris


Let’s continue looking at more food art created by Flemish still-life painters! This painting, now belonging to The Louvre, was created by the 17th-century artist Frans Snyders. His teacher was the famous Pieter Breughel the Elder. In this work titled Fruit and Vegetables with a Monkey, a Parrot, and a Squirrel we see a large number of different foods. Just take a look and see if you notice watermelon, corn, pears, apples, grapes, artichokes, cherries, apricots, and a grenadine. But this painting has something different than other Flemish still-life artworks – the scene is not set in a kitchen or some other type of interior. In the background, we see a landscape. 


4. Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans

Campbell’s Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, 1962, via MoMA, New York


There couldn’t be a list of food art that doesn’t include Campbell’s Soup works created by the famous Andy Warhol. Warhol, probably the best-known Pop artist in the world, created numerous works featuring different flavored cans of Campbell’s soup. Pop artists were heavily inspired by the post-war consumer culture of the United States. So, they took everyday objects like the ones found in many supermarkets and created artworks using that imagery. Like celebrities, comic books, ads, cans of food were also products many Americans enjoyed consuming and Warhol liked to use all of the above in his art practice. Campbell’s soups were one of the first silkscreens Warhol created. With this method, Warhol was creating slightly different versions of the same thing. In 1962, Warhol exhibited Campbell’s soups for the first time by placing the 32 canvases, all showing a different flavor of soup on shelves.


5. Wayne Thiebaud’s Yummy Desserts 

Cake Rows by Wayne Thiebaud, 1962, via Christie’s


Wayne Thiebaud is an American artist famous for his delicious-looking paintings of cakes, milkshakes, pies, ice cream sundaes, candies, and pastries. So, if you have a sweet tooth you’ll definitely love Thiebeud’s food art. His paintings are done in beautiful and gentle pastel colors like pink and yellow. It’s interesting to know that Thiebaud uses a knife when painting, so that he adds paint to the cakes, just like frosting! Many of his paintings of sweets seem to have a real cake texture within them because of the way Thiebaud paints. Thiebaud said that he was inspired by rows and rows of the same food waiting to be served to people in American restaurants.


6. President Elect By James Rosenquist

President Elect by James Rosenquist, 1960, via James Rosenquist’s website


James Rosenquist is another American Pop artist who often showed different types of food in his paintings. Rosenquist always showed food art as ultimately inviting and delicious. From parts of chocolate cake, to whip cream and frosting – the zoomed-in parts of desserts in his art could easily make your mouth water. Rosenquist copied the imagery seen in advertising where everything was made to look perfect so that you would buy the product. He explored the nature of consumer culture through his use of images seen in magazines, tv ads, and on billboards. 


In his painting called President Elect, the artist even positioned a piece of cake next to an image of President John F. Kennedy and an image of a Chevrolet automobile. JFK was famous for using mass media throughout his campaign, so by positioning all of these things together, Rosenquist looked at them as media images selling us an idea of something. 


7. The Four Seasons By Giuseppe Arcimboldo

The Four Seasons by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1573, via Sotheby’s


The Four Seasons consists of four different paintings that show a human head made out of different foods and flowers representing the season they belong to. This is one of the best-known works of the Italian 16th-century painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo. It was created in 1573. Autumn shows a face created out of pears, apples, pomegranate, mushrooms, grapes, pumpkin. In the Winter portrait, we can see the flowers dying and withering, and in the bottom right corner, we notice lemons. The Spring face is made out of many different colorful flowers blooming. The portrait of the Summer shows a face made out of leaves, cherries, plums, peaches, cucumber, corn. And the dress worn by the personification of Summer is made out of oats. 


8. Paul Cézanne And Fruit

Still Life with Fruit Dish by Paul Cézanne, 1879-80, via MoMA, New York 


Paul Cézanne is a very famous French Post-impressionist painter you must have heard of! He is particularly known for his still-life paintings of fruit, most of which were painted in the 1880s and 1890s. Apples, pears, quince, lemons, cherries – Cézanne painted them all. Cézanne is recognized as one of the most important artists in the history of modern art who influenced movements like Cubism and Fauvism. In his still-life paintings, Paul Cézanne explored relations of form, geometric shapes, light, and color. During his prolific career, Cézanne painted more than 170 still-life paintings.


9. Jo Ann Callis’ Cheap Thrills

Cheap Thrills by Jo Ann Callis, c. 1993, via Jo Ann Callis’ website


Let’s move on to some food art seen in photography! Jo Ann Callis is an American visual artist and a photographer. In her photography series named Cheap Thrills, Callis focuses on visually pleasing images of food. This series of images was created in the early 1990s. Callis uses vivid colors like pink, yellow, and red. Some of the desserts she chose to picture almost look like body parts, therefore the artist explores through these anthropomorphic shapes ideas connected to sexuality and desire. 


10. The Onion By Marina Abramovic

The Onion by Marina Abramovic, 1996, via LIMA, Amsterdam


Another interesting piece of food art is the video created by the famous performance artist Marina Abramovic, in which the artist eats an onion while reciting a little essay. The piece is even called The Onion! In this video, we see a close up of Abramovic’s face while she eats the onion and cries tears because of its smell. She also talks about a number of upsetting things while doing it, describing her current lifestyle and thoughts. The video was created in 1996. 


In this emotional piece of video art, Abramovic recites: “I’m tired of changing planes so often, waiting in the waiting rooms, bus stations, train stations, airports. I am tired of waiting for endless passport controls. Fast shopping in shopping malls. I am tired of more career decisions: museum and gallery openings, endless receptions, standing around with a glass of plain water, pretending that I am interested in conversation. I am tired of my migraine attacks. Lonely hotel room, room service, long distance telephone calls, bad TV movies. I am tired of always falling in love with the wrong man.”


11. Portrait Of Ross In L.A. By Felix Gonzales-Torres: Love, Loss And Food art

Portrait of Ross in L.A. by Felix Gonzales-Torres, 1991, via the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation


Portrait of Ross in L.A. is a very gentle and beautiful food art piece about romantic love, loss, and grief. Ross, who the work was inspired by, was the partner of the artist Felix Gonzales-Torres. Ross died of AIDS the year the piece was created. In this moving piece, Gonzales-Torres placed a pile of candy wrapped in shiny paper weighing around 175lb, which was supposed to represent the ideal weight of his partner. The viewers are however invited to take a piece of candy with them, therefore making the pile weigh less and less. This alludes to the body getting weaker and finally disappearing. The work is a meditation on love and loss, but it also reflects the time when it was created and the AIDS crisis that unfortunately took many lives. 


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By Dea CvetkovićBA and MA in Art HistoryDea has a Bachelor and a Master’s degree in history of Art from the University of Belgrade. Her main fields of interest include modern and contemporary art, American art, gender studies, photography, and film. She loves taking pictures, watching movies, traveling, and wandering around museums.