At the time Nick­o­las Muray was work­ing, Amer­ica was com­ing out of World War II and the New Deal. Food was not avail­able in abun­dance and it was sur­rounded with pro­pa­ganda. Muray, a Hun­gar­ian émi­gré who had been mix­ing in avant-garde cir­cles in Europe, brought with him a vi­sion to rep­re­sent the fan­tasy of Amer­i­can life, as well as tech­ni­cal skill he learned from pub­lish­ing houses in Ger­many. When he was hired by Mccall’s mag­a­zine to pro­duce food spreads for its home­mak­ing and cook­ing pages, he printed with a three­color process that we now rec­og­nize as Tech­ni­color. His im­ages were bright, fresh, and lu­mi­nous, and they rep­re­sented a land of plenty—a boun­ti­ful and ide­al­ized Amer­ica, freed from food re­stric­tions and hard­ships. His tables are epic and laden. Glasses of iced tea jos­tle for room with an orange-and-glacécherry-topped ham; a bas­ket of bread sits among flow­ers, salad, dessert, and condi­ments. This is not food to eat, but food to be looked at and dreamed about.

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