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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: 20th century: Vegetable Dinner
Vegetable Dinner

Vegetable Dinner
Peter Blume
oil on canvas
25 1/4 x 30 1/4 in. (64.2 x 76.8 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase

Hear staff member Tierney talk about Vegetable Dinner 1.1MB

"Anytime I start a picture, it's like starting all over again, doing everything from scratch." The artist, quoted in Peter Blume, Exhibition Catalogue, Kennedy Galleries, 1968

The two women in Vegetable Dinner are both images of Peter Blume's companion Elaine, with whom he lived during the 1920s. The woman on the left, with her fashionable clothing and lit cigarette, evokes his love of parties and freedom, while the woman on the right chops vegetables to represent commitment and domesticity. This expresses Blume's conflict between his affection for Elaine, who "had very competent hands," and his need to live the bohemian life of an artist. (White, "Slicing and the Dionysian: Domesticity and the Artist in Peter Blume's Vegetable Dinner," unpublished ms., SAAM curatorial file, 1994) The dramatic cropping of the two figures, together with the knife pointing ominously at one woman's thumb, transforms this ordinary scene into something far more menacing, and suggests that neither of Elaine's roles would have made the artist completely happy. Blume eventually parted from Elaine, remembering later that their relationship was "always in a state of high tension anyway. It could never have survived as a marriage" (interview with the artist, 1983, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution).

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