artTea: 40 favorite tea paintings

“Surely a pretty woman never looks prettier than when making tea.” ~ Mary Elizabeth Braden (Lady Audley’s Secret)

“Tea” (George Dunlop Leslie, 1894)

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.

“The Tea Set” (Claude Monet, 1872)

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.๐Ÿ™‚

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.

“At the Tea Table” (Konstantin Korovin, 1888)

“Afternoon Tea” (George Goodwin Kilburne, 1897)
“Tea in the Garden” (Ernest-Joseph Laurent, 1859-1929)
“The Tea Party” (Arthur Watson Sparks, 1907)
“Five O’clock Tea” (Julius LeBlanc Stewart, 1883-4)
“Tea Time” (Henry Salem Hubbell, 1909)
“Old Woman Pouring Tea” (Unknown artist, 19th century)
“In the Garden” (Lukjan Vasilievich Popov, 1911)
“Tea Time” (Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1911)
“Tea for Two” (George Goodwin Kilburne, 1839-1924)
“Lady at the Tea Table” (Mary Cassatt, 1883-85)
“An Afternoon Tea” (Federico Andreotti, 1847-1930)
“The Servant Girl” (Emil Brack, 1860-1920)
“Someone Coming to Tea” (Charles Spencelayh, 1865-1958)
“Tea Hour” (W.L. Mumberg, 20th century)
“Tea” (James Tissot, 1872)
“Tea in the Garden” (Henri Matisse, 1919)
“Dejeuner” (May Wilson Preston, 1910)
“Tea Time” (Francois Brunery, pre-1900)
“Dutch Woman” (Marcia Oakes Woodbury, 1891)
“5 O’Clock” (John Bagnold Burgess, 1852)
“Tea Table in the Garden” (Esther Borough Johnson, 1925)
“A Cup of Tea” (William Granville-Smith, 1904)
“In the Spring” (Harold Knight, 1908)
“Afternoon Tea” (William Henry Lippincott, 1885)
“Eine gesellige Runde” (Otto Goldman, 1887)
“Tea Cake and Strawberries” (Levi Wells Prentice, 1851-1935)
Edward Antoon Portielje, 1861-1949
“Women Taking Tea” (Albert Lynch, 1851-1912)
“Morning Tea” (Vladimir Makovsky, 1891)
“Summer Afternoon” (Theo van Rysselberghe, 1901)
“A Cup of Tea” (Lilla Cabot Perry, 1848-1933)
“The Breakfast” (Isidor Verheyden, 1905)
“Tea Time” (Tom McEwan, 1846-1914)
“Five O’Clock Tea” (Portrait of Mrs. Elwood Riggs by Christian von Schneidau, 1893-1976)
“The Tea” (Mary Cassatt, 1880)
“Madame Aline Gibert” (Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1887)
“Drinking Tea” (Aleksei Naumov, 1896)

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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?ย 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?๐Ÿ™‚

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wkendcookingiconThis 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!

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Copyright ยฉ 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

50 thoughts on “artTea: 40 favorite tea paintings

    1. “Elegantly serene” — nice! I do like the feeling of another time, another place, an entirely different sensibility from our modern day hurried lives.

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  1. I love the entire tea gallery. The hats! The linens! Such a warm post on a chilly March day.

    Thank you for inviting us to tea today! I’m going to pour some Earl Grey and re-read “Cloud Tea Monkeys” by Mal Peet.๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. I’m the Old Woman Pouring Tea with her Cat!! Have you seen the movie, Tim’s Vermeer? We saw it this weekend, and it was very thought provoking! I’d like to have tea with Tim. He’s a very interesting fellow.

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  3. Justin was recently out in Leesburg and stopped at a tea shop, and what do you think he picked up for me? Chocolate tea! I haven’t tried it yet, but after reading this post, I think I’ll brew a cup! Thanks for the lovely post, Jama darling…

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    1. Was it Harney & Sons “Florence”? It sometimes goes by that name in addition to “Chocolate.” I tried some recently and haven’t decided whether I like it or not. It didn’t seem chocolatey to me.

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    1. Funny you should mention that. I was just rereading our comment thread from 2008 where we talked about Eleanor and Emily, pearls and pinkies and Gibson guitars. You thought about doing an entire series of famous people drinking tea, including Dylan, Keith Richards, etc. We liked the juxtaposition of rock types with tea etiquette.๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. Well, maybe I should make good with suggestion. However, from your recent blog with actors and musicians doing just that, it may not be that novel of idea.

        Was that I Live-Journal thread?

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      2. Oh my! That was a great flashbacks rereading those comments. And it so VERY cool to rediscover the “source” of Emily as ‘the Gibson Girl!’ I really loved that illustration for many reasons, showing Emily as an electric player and not quiet classic acoustic one and my first depiction of her as clearly a redhead. I had just read something that Kelly shared with me where the author definitely felt she was redheaded. I just sold that painting this year. It’s rather cool to see its source had some to do with my blog family — a conversation with YOU!

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  4. OK, so I’m guilty of being a lousy listener! Justin & Skip went to a Leesburg museum, and they were holding a tea. The woman hosting the tea gave Justin the chocolate tea!

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  5. I’d like to know what’s going on between that couple at the center of Andreotti’s piece, and I would like to try the cake in the Prentice piece. I would probably most like to sit with the women in Portielje’s painting, because they look so comfortable and happy with each other.

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    1. That’s a very flirtatious couple — they seem to be plotting something naughty, don’t they? That cake doesn’t look too appetizing to me — looks like a heavy pound cake or something. But I do agree that Portielje’s women look very comfortable, relaxed and welcoming.๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. Many gorgeous tea sets there! I like the way the artists handled shadows and light in many of the paintings. I have reservations for afternoon tea with my college freshman on my birthday (in a couple of days). I’ll let you know what they serve๐Ÿ™‚

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  7. Oh wow!! I love all the different settings and styles of tea time and the different tea sets. And, of course, the different art styles too. And interesting that you had to search for men; the paintings do seem to be woman oriented. I like “Tea Hour”!

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    1. Most of the paintings including men showed them with a woman or at a gathering. Maybe they don’t sit still and contemplate with a cup of tea the way women do?๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. I am not a tea drinker so maybe I’ll imagine these fine ladies drinking coffee? Ha! I think it’s just a matter of not ever having a proper cuppa. Beautiful pictures!

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    1. I hear you on the coffee preference. I’ve always preferred tea, though part of it is being attracted to the idea of the entire ritual of tea drinking and all the paraphernalia you get to play with.๐Ÿ™‚

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  9. These are lovely! I really love the whole tea tray functionality in books and video. Just this morning, I met the woman who will be teaching the Downton Tea class this spring at the Missouri Botanical Garden. I got a friend to go with me, so now I’m really looking forward to it!

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