From Caravaggio to O’Keeffe, artists go positively nuts when it comes to a fruit-inspired still life. It makes sense; fruit is juicy, ripe, and often spherical, lending itself to all sorts of artistic and/or pervy metaphors. But an artist’s recent viral grilled cheese oil painting suggests that a toasty, cheesy sandwich might be the modern answer to still lifes.
The grilled cheese painting was shared by Florida-based artist Noah Verrier. Verrier tweeted a photo of the painting, captioned “My oil painting of a Grilled Cheese.” Scroll through Verrier’s body of work, and you’ll actually see quite a few still life paintings featuring sandwiches. (You can see the whole lineup on his website, including several studies of the humble PB&J.)
Verrier’s paintings are warm and romantic, with an excellent display of light and texture. At this point, I can only conclude that a sandwich is the superior still life subject—better than fruit, even. But before I make that argument, let’s first look at some of the ways fruit has been used in art.
Uses of fruit in art
Fruit and art go together like grill and cheese. Artists have drawn inspiration from fruit for centuries, ever since grapevines were first depicted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Caravaggio’s “Still Life With Fruit” is the epitome of the Baroque era—but fast forward to the 20th century, and you’ve also got Georgia O’Keeffe’s rich exploration of color (“Alligator Pears, 1920”) alongside more modern depictions like David Ligare’s “Still Life with Grape Juice and Sandwiches” (1994). All of these fruit-focused still lifes have a common element: a lush, velvety sensuality that harkens back to the day Eve decided to score a free apple from the tree of knowledge.
Fruit takes on many meanings in art, ranging from the fallibility of man (‘sup, Adam and Eve?) to the warmth and rebirth of spring to the pleasure and hedonism of high society. (The French Impressionists were into the latter.) But what does grilled cheese symbolize?
Sandwich as still life
Fruit can symbolize anything from pleasure and sensuality to rebirth or greed. Why can’t grilled cheese accomplish the same? (Verrier’s painting could also symbolize raw consumption, which is especially fitting since the work is available as an NFT. We all know how I feel about those.)
When you look at Verrier’s grilled cheese study, you can almost taste the gooey cheese or feel the light crunch of the toasted crust between your teeth. I’m no art expert, but I’d also venture a guess that the painting’s warm tones would look great outside of the kitchen. With that in mind, let’s expand our understanding of what makes something a classic. Put the grilled cheese in the damn Louvre.