Ambitious Bakers Are Finding Inspiration in Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch to Create Amazing Works of Focaccia-Bread Art

The colorful breads have become a popular trend.

Teri Culletto is credited with popularizing Garden Focaccia. She called this work, inspired by an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, "Vincent van Dough." Photo by Teri Culletto.

Extended self-isolation—not to mention the closure of restaurants—has gotten people back into their kitchens, where ambitious cooking has led to some of the most widely circulated images of life in lockdown.

Alongside sourdough starters and whipped dalgona coffee from Korea, “Garden Focaccia,” as it’s been dubbed—flat white loaves of bread beautifully decorated with colorful vegetables in floral designs—has become an internet sensation.

The delightful trend has been pioneered by Teri Culletto, who began baking bread in 2018, right around the time she visited a Vincent van Gogh exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

“I was inspired,” Culletto told the publication My Modern Met. Her first focaccia garden appeared on Instagram in February 2019, and attracted quite the following.

Tom Parfitt shared this take on Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night on his Pinterest board. Photo by Tom Parfitt.

“Through the months and seasons, I would see something in nature, a field of poppies or vines of grapes, or in a museum exhibit, and be inspired to convey them through bread art,” she said.

But bread-making encourages experimentation. “There are no rules, just art,” Culletto wrote in one Instagram post.

In the instructions she drew up for making one of her popular “Vincent van Dough” breads, Culletto advises using raw vegetables—with the exception of mushrooms, which should be sautéed and patted dry—and dipping delicate herbs in lemon juice before baking, to preserve their color.

Focaccia Garden bread art by Hannah Page. Photo by Hannah Page.

Focaccia Garden bread by Hannah Page. Photo by Hannah Page.

Culinary influencers such as Hannah Page, who has close to 200,000 followers on her Instagram account, have embraced the trend to create gorgeous, glutinous gardens of their own.

And a few bakers have even taken Culletto’s artistic inspiration to the next level, using her garden technique to recreate art-historical masterpieces.

We found not one but two focaccia Starry Night breads: one on Youtube using onions and olive tapenade to depict swirling stars and a cypress tree; and another on Pinterest, in which asparagus and tomatoes make up the composition.

Chef Tuan used the Garden Focaccia technique to recreate <em>The Scream</em> by Edvard Munch. Photo courtesy of Chef Tuan.

Chef Tuan used the Garden Focaccia technique to recreate The Scream by Edvard Munch. Photo courtesy of Chef Tuan.

But our favorite just might be from YouTube’s Chef Tuan, who made an impressive version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

Bands of red and yellow pepper recreate the painting’s famously dramatic sky, while Tuan expertly carved an eggplant to make the tortured figure who gives the work its title.

As long as you can track down yeast and flour (both of which are currently in high demand), whipping up a batch of focaccia is easy. Unlike more intimidating breads, this Italian specialty doesn’t require kneading. And stretched out on a sheet pan, it offers a compelling blank canvas for any would-be bread artist—whether they want to fashion inviting gardenscapes, or their favorite works from art history.

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