“Surely a pretty woman never looks prettier than when making tea.” ~ Mary Elizabeth Braden (Lady Audley’s Secret)
I’ve been having fun looking at late 19th and early 20th century paintings depicting people drinking or serving tea. Most of the subjects are beautifully decked-out, in-the-garden or fancy-sitting-room women who seem to have all the time in the world.
I love imagining their intimate conversations — secrets shared, pride in their children, juicy gossip. I also like the women taking tea alone in quiet contemplation, and covet the lovely tea sets and table settings.
I had to look harder for male subjects, since when it comes to tea drinking in fine art, women reign supreme. What would the great artists of the world do without us to sit for them? It’s not easy lounging about and looking gorgeous all the time. :)
Hope you enjoy these different settings, social and cultural contexts, and thinking about how the ritual of sharing tea fosters a special brand of intimacy. It’s always fascinating to try to read different personalities via facial expressions and posturing. Since there are so many good tea paintings out there, it was hard to pick just 40. Each of these tells a wonderful story.
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If any of you art buffs know interesting backstories about any of these paintings, or have other favorite tea paintings, please share in the comments.
Regarding Mary Cassatt’s “Lady at the Tea Table”: the subject is Ms. Cassatt’s mother’s cousin, Mrs. Robert Moore Riddle. The painting was completed in 1885, but put away because Riddle’s daughter objected to the size of her mother’s nose. Almost 20 years later, the painting was finally shown in Paris, where it caused a sensation.
Which one of these paintings would you most like to step into? I have an overwhelming desire to play with that adorable dog in Kilburne’s “Tea for Two.” And isn’t Burgess’s “Five O’clock” woman rather haughty? :)
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This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Make a fresh pot of tea and visit all the blogs to see what’s on the menu this week. Enjoy!
Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.