I don’t know about art, as the old saying goes, but I know what I like. That would be tea. So I guess it’s not surprising, given how ubiquitous tea is in some cultures, that there are artists who have sought to portray it in one way or another. That’s not to be confused, of course, with artists who actually use tea as their medium. More about that in these articles previously published at this very web site.

I can’t begin to gather together all of the works by artists who have taken tea as their subject, but I ran across a few noteworthy examples. Some are rather well known names, even to a relative art novice such as yours truly. Others I don’t recognize, but perhaps you will.

We probably all know of the French painter Henri Matisse. His 1919 painting – simply titled Tea – features two woman enjoying tea in a pleasant shaded garden setting with a dog relaxing nearby – which kind of makes you wish you could be there.

Though Mary Cassatt spent much of her time in France she was an American by birth (and like yours truly, a native Pennsylvanian). She tackled the topic of tea a number of times, including Lady at the Tea Table and The Cup of Tea, both of which portray a rather proper lady taking tea, while The Tea portrays a pair of tea drinkers.

I don’t really know much about the French artist James Tissot, but he also takes on the subject of proper tea drinking ladies – or a lady, in this case – in this strikingly realistic looking work. There’s also William McGregor Paxton, another American, who also tackles the apparently popular subject of ladies taking tea.

Which are all very nice and quite well done, but rather similar in tone. If you’re looking for something a little different from the aforementioned there are some options. I’m sure there are many representations of tea drinking and culture in Chinese, Japanese and other Asian art traditions but for now one will have to suffice – Brewing Tea in a Snow-Covered Hut, by Tani Bunchō. For a decidedly more abstract take on tea try The Tea Cup, by Jackson Pollock, where the subject of the painting is somewhat akin to Waldo in the Where’s Waldo drawings.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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