The Lobster, 1946<img alt="" src="/sites/GovernorsMansion/Exhibitions/PublishingImages/Art-of-Illinois/Barton-The-Lobster.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />The Lobster, 1946<div class="ExternalClassC965F61FA4E74D97B89488D1A13DC627"><p>The delectable foods in Macena Barton's still life evoke a variety of tastes and tactile sensations, hinting at the pleasures of the feast. Art critic Clarence Bulliet facetiously suggested that this "luscious table piece . . .errs a bit as art, perhaps, by forcing the gastric juices to accumulate in the stomach [sic] of the onlookers.1 The pimento-stuffed olives, Swiss cheese, and bakery spritz cookies are everyday foods that might have been found in the artist's own kitchen in Chicago's Tree Studios building. The lobster, in contrast, is a luxury item. Its undulating surface is strangely echoed to the left in the knobby contours of the challah, a braided bread made for celebrations in Jewish tradition, in which consumption of shellfish such as lobster is forbidden. Macena Barton was not Jewish, but she often injected her images with sly humor and unsettling juxtapositions of this kind.</p><p>The Lobster is a modern interpretation of a still life tradition with its roots in seventeenth-century Dutch art, examples of which Barton knew from her studies at the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1920s. In those works, the lobster often symbolizes not only luxury but also instability for its ability to crawl both forward and backward. The rumpled cloth, the partly peeled lemon, and the knife balanced diagonally on the table's edge in Barton's painting also "quote" directly from Dutch precedent. But the common American foods, the simple pine table, and the brilliant tints of the objects and background all place this image firmly in the artist's time and place.</p><p>A Michigan native who spent her career in Chicago, Barton is now recognized as one of the city's foremost surrealist painters of her generation. Reputedly the first American woman artist to create a nude self-portrait, she painted portraits and still-life arrangements as well as fantasy images and straightforward cityscapes.<br></p></div>GP0|#be8c9dc3-c9bb-4b50-ac85-af92d3f196cf;L0|#0be8c9dc3-c9bb-4b50-ac85-af92d3f196cf|Macena Barton;GTSet|#6a9f5109-021d-478a-ae73-864102492159;GPP|#9d68cbd3-25f3-49f0-8924-6cbe6cdb2f21;GPP|#be65f490-4890-487c-bb16-c396d99511f7Art;#TemporaryPainting Oil;#Painting Oil on Canvas;#Chicago, IllinoisOil on canvas, 28 × 36 inches M. Christine Schwartz Collection