Metaphors comparing paintings to pastries and artists to cooks abound in nineteenth-century French art criticism. Caricaturists and critics mocked fashionable painters by calling them confectioners of cakes and creams, most often in relation to paintings of Parisiennes, figures culturally conceived in similar terms as lightweight and appetizing. Surprisingly, critics also used confectionary metaphors to describe the materiality of Impressionist ‘tongue-lickings’, the famous slang for Impressionist brushstrokes. Connected to the feminizing of Impressionism as a movement, these accounts betrayed the sensual appeal or disgust provoked by coagulating swirls of creamy colour. Critics claimed that they experienced a destabilizing combination of sensory effects when they encountered the art, and insisted that Impressionist works were far more than purely visual documents. This paper considers still lifes by Caillebotte and Monet in order to explore how the parallels between artist and chef, paint and food, were figured in paint, and even operated outside of explicit critical attention to undermine the boundaries upon which the typically derogatory metaphors were built.
Dr Allison Deutsch specializes in nineteenth-century French painting and material culture. She graduated from Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts with a BA in Art History in 2011. Her PhD, completed in 2016 at University College London, considered the metaphors of taste and ingestion used by the most influential nineteenth-century critics to express attraction or disgust toward French modern-life painting. In 2017 she was awarded a Junior Research Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London, where she turned her thesis into the book manuscript Consuming Painting: Food and the Feminine in French Art and Criticism, 1865-1890, currently under review. Her new research addresses the multi-sensory reception of Impressionism, asking how cultural values were encoded in the metaphorical language of sensation in art criticism, and rethinking inherited assumptions about Impressionist opticality. Her research is motivated by a feminist perspective and centres on questions of gender, sexuality, and embodiment. Allison is an Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld.
Organised by Dr Thomas Hughes (The Courtauld Institute of Art) and William Parker (The Courtauld Institute of Art)