Indulge Your Senses: The Art of Food Takes Center Stage at Norton Simon Museum

Visual and culinary artists together can feast their eyes on a one-of-a-kind exhibition that combines the artistry of food with the essence of culture at “All Consuming: Art and the Essence of Food,” an intense exhibit at Old Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum through August 14..

From paintings to digital art, this exhibition presents a plethora of mediums that celebrate the beauty and significance of food over four centuries, from 1500 to 1900.

“As I was thinking about a theme that would do that for this collection, food became kind of a clear choice because we’re all connected with food on a variety of levels,” said Maggie Bell, assistant curator at the Norton Simon Museum.

According to Bell, the collection has three themes: hunger, excess and sustenance. 

“I did this because I think these three themes are certainly historically specific, but they also are something that we can relate to now.” 

“It seems like a very diverse selection and the themes are very different from one another, even if the main subject is food.” 

Notable artworks featured at the exhibit include Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo’s painting “St. Thomas of Villanueva Giving Alms.”

“He was witnessing famine that had been caused by plague and drought. And so he was responding to a lot of the poverty and hunger that he saw in the city, but in a sort of sentimental way that was meant to inspire charity.” 

Bell also mentioned “Wine is a Mocker,” a painting by the Dutch artist Jan Steen, which depicts a scene outside an inn where a well-dressed drunken woman is about to be carried home in a wheelbarrow, as among the notable artworks featured at the exhibit. 

“At the time that was supposed to be humorous, but today we might see that as she is in danger, she is in a more vulnerable position. So I think we might be sensitive to that image differently,” she said.

Bell hopes visitors will be able to enjoy the artworks, which she said is relevant even now, and connect with them as they move through the sections.

“I really hope everyone comes and sees these artists in new ways that feel more relevant to our lives today. I hope they also take away a sense of how much images of food continue to shape our relationship with food.” 

“I hope they enjoy these works of art from a different perspective.” 

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