All three paintings are of prominent American artists Edward Hopper and Norman Rockwell. The first one is called Tables for Ladies (1930), the second is Freedom from Want (1943), and the last one is Rosie the Riveter (1943). These works are significant because of their creators, who were popular not only in their homeland but around the world due to their exceptional capability of expressing things they saw. Thus, they have largely influenced the artistic culture of their time.
The first work depicts a usual scene on the streets of New York City showing us the front window of a restaurant. The viewer’s sight is directed straight to the part of the picture where the diversity of foods is shown and the waitress is trying to place them so that they could attract attention of a passer-by. Then the focus changes from the foreground to the background into the depth of the restaurant room with clean floors, a plenty of mirrors on the walls decorated with wood panels, the couple having a conversation, and a cashier doing something at her register. Despite some historical context, the picture tells of social changes of that time, namely the important role of a woman in public work.
The next artwork depicts a big family sitting by the table. Actually, they are friends and family of the author. Norman Rockwell took pictures of each of them separately in order to pay equal attention to everyone so that every face in the picture could look naturally and vividly. The group is sitting around the table for some kind of a holiday meal, presumably Thanksgiving Day. It was later often referred exactly to this feast as it is rather significant in the American culture.
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Rosie the Riveter,which was created originally as a cover of the Saturday Evening Post is also painted by Norma Rockwell. This illustration includes a relatively big woman with strong arms, who is having a meal during the break from work on a factory. Supposedly, she works with machines, since the rivet gun on her laps can be seen in the foreground. Hitler’s book Mein Kampf can be seen beneath her shoes. The significance of this work is tightly connected to the myriad of posters and magazine covers printed during the World War II depicting thousands of women working on factories, while their men were fighting at war.
The first picture represents a restaurant culture of food consumption. The front window in the bottom is decorated with colorful fruits and vegetables along with some steaks and champagne. This artwork was created to remind everyone of Great Depression when Edward Hopper was living in New York. Not many Americans were able to afford to go somewhere for a dinner, even to such simple and modest place as the one in the picture.
In the next painting, home food consumption is represented. A group of people gathered around the table are ready to eat traditional turkey on Thanksgiving Day. The mother presents a roasted turkey to the whole family, and the father has a look of approval on his face. The time this work was created was right after the speech by Franklin Roosevelt, known as Four Freedoms, made public in January 1941. So, this painting was just a part of a series of artworks, which was intended to boost patriotism is the American society during the World War II.
The woman having a break time during her hard work on the factory represents the same historical context as the previous picture. This artwork was published on the magazine cover as well as it was a usual poster during the war. The message of the illustration was not to hire more women to work on factories but boost the level of production.
Both artists enjoyed huge popularity in the middle of the 20th century. Norman Rockwell was best known for his covers for the Saturday Evening Post. He was a master of photographic kind of painting, being simultaneously good at depicting inhabitants of small American towns and showing the beauty of simple quotidian scenes. As a representative of realism, Edward Hopper expressed everyday life of people with a bit of abstraction, contrary to Rockwell’s manner. While the characters of the latter were usually sociable, talkative, and cheerful, Hopper’s figures tended to suffer from solitude and separateness, they express how unsatisfied they are with the modern life. Despite Rockwell’s exceptional technique and color reproduction, he is sometimes too natural in depicting people – even more natural than they actually are. Though his works are much more simplified by the abstract manner, Hopper provides just as much realism as the viewer’s gaze requires.
The first thing to learn from these works is that the theme of food consumption and preparation is usually expressed with a particular historical background, which intends to convey a particular message. For instance, in first work, it is obvious how tasty, yet very valuable for almost everyone, was food in an ordinary small restaurant in New York City during the Great Depression. The other work expresses the importance of traditional food, namely roasted turkey, not only in the celebration of Thanksgiving Day but also its huge role in boosting patriotism as it was something that united everyone who celebrated this day. The intention of the last work was pretty similar to the latter. Thus, the artworks described above focus on the huge role of food consumption and food tradition and enable to familiarize oneself with this topic.
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