Table Scenes in Illustration and Composition

Table scenes are notoriously difficult to film in TV and movies. Live action presents its own challenges, but static images of characters around tables aren’t exactly easy, either. They’re significantly easier when one side of the table has no one seated at it.

But tables are symbolically useful, too. A long table, with one person at each end, clearly conveys psychological distance. The ‘camera’ angle also says a lot about the relationship between characters.

Below is a collection of table scenes in art and illustration, showcasing various compositional choices.

American Boy Vintage Magazine - January 1932. As a young man digs into pie, his father shows him a newspaper advertisement saying 'Team Must Diet'.
American Boy Vintage Magazine – January 1932. As a young man digs into pie, his father shows him a newspaper advertisement saying ‘Team Must Diet’.
Marjorie Torrey
from The Charms of Monique by Francis Price, 1959, art by Joseph Bowler
This image is from The Charms of Monique by Francis Price, 1959, art by Joseph Bowler. Unusually, one character is showing her back, but her back is part of the draw.
Jessica Hayllar (English, 1858 - 1940) In this still life, the decorative table is the focus. Usually in still life the items on the table overshadow the table itself.
Jessica Hayllar (English, 1858 – 1940) In this still life, the decorative table is the focus. Usually in still life the items on the table overshadow the table itself.
Cafetaria Dieter cover art for The Saturday Evening Post by Constantin Alajalof (1900-1987), November 10 1956
Cafetaria Dieter cover art for The Saturday Evening Post by Constantin Alajalof (1900-1987), November 10 1956
A vintage edition of Beauty and the Beast
A vintage edition of Beauty and the Beast
KABOUTER LIEBRENG (1943) Piet Marée
KABOUTER LIEBRENG (1943) Piet Marée
KABOUTER LIEBRENG (1943) Piet Marée
KABOUTER LIEBRENG (1943) Piet Marée
Portrait of translator and publisher Angus Davidson at Charleston by Duncan Grant, worked with Virginia Woolf at The Hogarth Press
Portrait of translator and publisher Angus Davidson at Charleston by Duncan Grant, worked with Virginia Woolf at The Hogarth Press
The Children’s Party Book by Marion Jane Parker
Fairyland Annual 1969 Stories By Joan Fisher, Illustrations By Hutchings, 1968
Fairyland Annual 1969 Stories By Joan Fisher, Illustrations By Hutchings, 1968
The Little Leftover Witch by Florence Laughlin
 Marjorie Torrey
Marjorie Torrey
Frederic Varady, Cosmopolitan, January 1960
Frederic Varady, Cosmopolitan, January 1960
The Hardy Tin Soldier ~ Illustrated by Rie Cramer (1887-1977)
The Hardy Tin Soldier ~ Illustrated by Rie Cramer (1887-1977)
Pot pourri (1874) by Charles Robert Leslie (English, 1794-1859)
Pot pourri (1874) by Charles Robert Leslie (English, 1794-1859)
Samuel Uhrdin (1886-1964) kitchen
Samuel Uhrdin (1886-1964)
Richard Norris Brooke - A Pastoral Visit
Richard Norris Brooke – A Pastoral Visit
Carnaval à l'hôtel Ferraille (1901) by Rémy Cogghe (Belgian, 1854-1935). Carnival at the Ferraille Hotel
Carnaval à l’hôtel Ferraille (1901) by Rémy Cogghe (Belgian, 1854-1935). Carnival at the Ferraille Hotel
Just Be Cool Jenna Sakai by Debbi Michiko Florence
Just Be Cool Jenna Sakai by Debbi Michiko Florence
The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey (London 1958)
The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey (London 1958)
Ernest is about to choke on a peach Edward Gory’s ‘The Gashlygrumb Tinies (1963)
Harold Hume Piffard - Speak For It
Harold Hume Piffard – Speak For It
Summer afternoon [Interior] (1913) by Leonard Campbell Taylor (1874-1969)
Summer afternoon Interior by Leonard Campbell Taylor (1874-1969)
Cricket Magazine witches' tea party
Georges-Marie-Julien Girardot - Before the Wedding 1889
Georges-Marie-Julien Girardot – Before the Wedding 1889
Frank Holl - The Lord Gave and the Lord Hath Taketh Away, Blessed Be the Name of the Lord 1868
Frank Holl – The Lord Gave and the Lord Hath Taketh Away, Blessed Be the Name of the Lord 1868
John Singer Sargent,  The Lunch Table (c. 1883 - 1896)
John Singer Sargent, The Lunch Table (c. 1883 – 1896)
William Hemsley - Baking Day
William Hemsley – Baking Day
The Breakfast Table (1884) by John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925)
The Breakfast Table (1884) by John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925)
Thorolf HOLMBOE (Norwegian painter) 1866-1935 Still Life 1897
Thorolf HOLMBOE (Norwegian painter) 1866-1935 Still Life 1897
Granny Torelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech
Granny Torelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech
Lisbeth Zwerger - Dwarf Nose
Lisbeth Zwerger – Dwarf Nose
Baby's Mother Goose Pat-a-cake (c)1948, illustrated by Aurelius Battaglia
Baby’s Mother Goose Pat-a-cake (c)1948, illustrated by Aurelius Battaglia
Patrick William Adam (British, 1854 - 1929)
Patrick William Adam (British, 1854 – 1929)
Men of Brains 1909 Grape-nuts
Men of Brains 1909 Grape-nuts
Yellow Dinette 1952
Yellow Dinette 1952
DER ZAUN (1969) Jan Balet Mexican
DER ZAUN (1969) Jan Balet Mexican
Alfred Kappes (1850–1994)-king at table
Alfred Kappes (1850–1994)
My Home January 1944, What is wrong with this picture
1944
Marie-Madeleine FRANC-NOHAIN [1878-1942] Alphabet In Pictures 1933
Marie-Madeleine FRANC-NOHAIN [1878-1942] Alphabet In Pictures 1933
Polish illustrator  Zdzisław Witwicki, (1921-2019)
Polish illustrator Zdzisław Witwicki (1921-2019), like many children’s illustrators, makes use of the off-kilter perspective of Cubism.
The Story of Doctor Doolittle 1920, Hugh Lofting, farewell feast
The Story of Doctor Doolittle 1920, Hugh Lofting, farewell feast
This illustration is by British artist Tom Barling, and is from a 1970s edition of “Thirteen O’Clock” by Enid Blyton. I suspect Barling intended the table to serve as white space for text, but the composition is not utilised in this way in the final publication. (The reason I think this is because there are various compositional ‘mistakes’ in the book.) However, I still really like the result of the white table cloth serving as white space offsetting very busy (beautiful) linework.
Jules-Alexis Muenier - The Best Days 1889
Jules-Alexis Muenier – The Best Days 1889
Alfons Mucha, Le Figaro illustrated, 1896 table
Alfons Mucha, Le Figaro illustrated, 1896
Waffles Doudon - Lyon, art by Francisco Nicolas Tamagno
Waffles Doudon – Lyon, art by Francisco Nicolas Tamagno
Gulliver's Voyages to Lilliput and Brobdingnag by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), illustration by Percy Angelo Staynes. Her diversion was to see me eat in miniature.
Gulliver’s Voyages to Lilliput and Brobdingnag by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), illustration by Percy Angelo Staynes. Her diversion was to see me eat in miniature.
French Halloween postcard , 1905
French Halloween postcard , 1905
by Georges Lepape (1897-1971)
by Georges Lepape (1897-1971)
A Room At Twilight Kellie Castle by John Henry Lorimer, oil on canvas, before 1936
Ramon Casas
Ramon Casas
Louis Ritman 1889–1963 American
Louis Ritman 1889–1963 American
Carl Larsson Christmas Eve, 1904
Carl Larsson Christmas Eve, 1904
Konstantin Makovsky (1839 - 1915) Still Life in an Interior, 1900
Konstantin Makovsky (1839 – 1915) Still Life in an Interior, 1900
from ‘Les Tres Riches Heures de Mrs Mole’ by Ronald Searle Christmas dinner
Vilhelm Hammershoi Interior 1899
Vilhelm Hammershoi Interior 1899
1939 October, cover by Antonio Petruccelli
1939 October, cover by Antonio Petruccelli
Alexei von Jawlensky (Russian painter) 1864-1941 Black Table 1901
Alexei von Jawlensky (Russian painter) 1864-1941 Black Table 1901

SEE ALSO

Parties in Art and Fiction

Header illustration is a detail from Gourmet Magazine August 1958 Louis Diat – Bananas Alvin Kerr Leonard Beck