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American Beauties: Women in Art and Literature

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"If eyes were made for seeing," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, "then Beauty is its own excuse for being." We need no other excuse to enjoy American Beauties, a dazzling panorama of women from all walks of life, as American artists and writers have depicted them over the past two centuries. Elegantly designed and produced, the book opens with Benjamin West's Helen Brought to Paris (1776), a purely mythological treatment of beauty, accompanied by Edgar Allan Poe's classic poem "To Helen." From this beginning we follow a gradual development in the
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Overview

"If eyes were made for seeing," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, "then Beauty is its own excuse for being." We need no other excuse to enjoy American Beauties, a dazzling panorama of women from all walks of life, as American artists and writers have depicted them over the past two centuries. Elegantly designed and produced, the book opens with Benjamin West's Helen Brought to Paris (1776), a purely mythological treatment of beauty, accompanied by Edgar Allan Poe's classic poem "To Helen." From this beginning we follow a gradual development in the artistic and literary images of American women, as mythology and sentimentality give way to modern views, culminating with Douglas Bourgeois's decidedly unsentimental painting Poet in Her Kitchen (1982) and Anne Sexton's sensitive poem "It Is a Spring Afternoon." Editor Charles Sullivan selected nearly 100 works of art for American Beauties entirely from the thousands of paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and other works at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. They encompass many different styles, historical periods, concepts of beauty, and attitudes toward women, as do the more than 100 poems and prose selections that accompany them. Some combinations are lighthearted, such as Red Grooms's collage of Gertrude Stein, which we see with her witty poem "I Am Rose." Others are nostalgic, for example, Eastman Johnson's painting The Girl I Left Behind Me, and the song lyrics that inspired it. Still others, like Mary Cassatt's portrait Sara in a Green Bonnet with Celia Thaxter's poem "The Sandpiper," are timelessly pleasing to the eye and to the imagination. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all, so each reader of this unique and vivid anthology will discover and savor the images that are personally most relevant and appealing. Biographical notes give the reader background information on all the artists and writers represented in American Beauties.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810919273
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/20/1993
  • Pages: 160

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