Greetings Art Lovers,
This week I get to write about one of my favorite art historical obscurities: the American artist’s fascination with Chinese food.
At the turn of the 20th century, a wave of Chinese immigrants were finding their way to New York City. Chinese restaurants popped up all around the Big Apple (and the country), introducing new tastes and aeshetics to Americans.
Artists took notice. John Sloan’s 1909 painting “Chinese Restaurant” was one of the first to capture a NYC chinese restaurant. He visited and revisited an eatery on Sixth Avenue, not far from Herald Square, to inspire his piece. Max Weber painted his own cubist “Chinese Restaurant” in 1915.
By the mid 1920s when Edward Hopper painted “Chop Suey” (above) , Chinese restaurants had become commonplace. One society columnist wrote about the Americanized dish, noting it had become:
a staple…vigorously vying with sandwiches and salad as the noontime nourishment of the young women typists and telephonists… At the lunch hour there is an eager exodus toward Chinatown of the women workers… To them the district is not an intriguing bit of transplanted Orient. It is simply a good place to eat.
Faye Vander Veer’s “A Ride Through Chinatown,” takes us outside the NYC restaurants early modern painters focused on and onto the streets of San Francisco. Her piece retains a sense of cultural fusion, hushed reds and shadowy depth reminiscent of Hopper’s piece.
Faye painted the scene after a late afternoon trip to SF’s Chinatown. Long shadows stretched their arms across the street, contrasting the light and bright sky of the brilliant afternoon. Faye found the shadows to be a perfect compliment to the reds in the buildings and the dancing lanterns. She waited for a cyclist to cross the illuminated intersection to capture that moment in time.