Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/13/2021

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Art History

First Advisor

Kinsey, Joni

First Committee Member

Adcock, Craig

Second Committee Member

Hochstrasser, Julie

Third Committee Member

Johnson, Dorothy

Fourth Committee Member

Witt, Doris


From 1880 until the enforcement of Prohibition in 1920, depictions of food consumption evolved as a newly significant genre of American art. As restaurant dining became increasingly popular and the social norms governing food changed rapidly, the dining table functioned as a space for the negotiation of class, ethnicity, and identity. In the contexts of increased immigration, shifting class structures, and tumultuous urban environments, depictions of food consumption served essential sociocultural functions. Artists and viewers utilized depictions of food to justify and internalize difference, often working to combat change. The proliferation and diversification of food imagery during this period is evidence of changing tastes, for both food and imagery. Depictions of restaurant dining, food labor, ethnic restaurants, and other venues for food consumption served as spaces for the negotiation of change and the performance of class, identity, and status.

Public Abstract

Depictions of food consumption served essential social functions in turn-of-the-century American cities. From 1880 until the enforcement of Prohibition in 1920, images of eating evolved as a newly significant category of American art. As class, race, and ethnicity became increasingly complex and fluid, eating was a way to reaffirm or elevate one’s status or to diminish that of others. As such, depictions of food consumption reveal tensions rooted in class, ethnicity, and immigration. Changing tastes for food and expanded culinary offerings allowed for the negotiation of these issues at the dining table. Taken as a group, images of food consumption allowed for the negotiation of social change and provided a visual space for the public performance of identity and status.


xvi, 277 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 252-277).


Copyright © 2017 Lauren Freese

Available for download on Tuesday, July 13, 2021