Art and the Crisis of Marriage: Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keeffe

Overview

Between the two world wars, middle-class America experienced a "marriage crisis" that filled the pages of the popular press. Divorce rates were rising, birthrates falling, and women were entering the increasingly industrialized and urbanized workforce in larger numbers than ever before, while Victorian morals and manners began to break down in the wake of the first sexual revolution.

Vivien Green Fryd argues that this crisis played a crucial role in the lives and works of two of...

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Overview

Between the two world wars, middle-class America experienced a "marriage crisis" that filled the pages of the popular press. Divorce rates were rising, birthrates falling, and women were entering the increasingly industrialized and urbanized workforce in larger numbers than ever before, while Victorian morals and manners began to break down in the wake of the first sexual revolution.

Vivien Green Fryd argues that this crisis played a crucial role in the lives and works of two of America's most familiar and beloved artists, Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) and Edward Hopper (1882-1967). Combining biographical study of their marriages with formal and iconographical analysis of their works, Fryd shows how both artists expressed the pleasures and perils of their relationships in their paintings. Hopper's many representations of Victorian homes in sunny, tranquil landscapes, for instance, take on new meanings when viewed in the context of the artist's own tumultuous marriage with Jo and the widespread middle-class fears that the new urban, multidwelling homes would contribute to the breakdown of the family. Fryd also persuasively interprets the many paintings of skulls and crosses that O'Keeffe produced in New Mexico as embodying themes of death and rebirth in response to her husband Alfred Stieglitz's long-term affair with Dorothy Norman.

Art and the Crisis of Marriage provides both a penetrating reappraisal of the interconnections between Georgia O'Keeffe's and Edward Hopper's lives and works, as well as a vivid portrait of how new understandings of family, gender, and sexuality transformed American society between the wars in ways that continue to shape it today.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Times

"This volume is handsomely produced and packed with intriguing illustrations . . . Fryd's research is rich in detailed information."

— Alexander Eliot

Journal of the History of Sexuality

"An important scholarly contribution to what is already a considerable literature on these artists. . . . Fryd has examined the issues that shaped the lives of several significant artists, effectively connecting their individual experience with public visual culture. In this bold and imaginative volume she has presented information and ideas that should engage readers from a variety of disciplines."

— Betsy Fahlman

CAA Reviews

“By viewing Hopper and O’Keeffe’s art collectively through the lens of marriage, Fryd traces a larger pattern of conflict and collaboration as being at the heart of their work. . . . Fryd has produced a clearly written and highly readable study . . . [she] has expanded our understanding of these mutually inflecting domains within the artistic and private lives of two of the most compelling figures in twentieth-century American art.”--Marcia Brennan, CAA Reviews

— Marcia Brennan

Virginia Quarterly Review
“The author of this lavishly illustrated new volume leads us through an analysis of the work of these two major painters, arguing all the while that the struggle brought on by an unhappy marriage helps us to understand either artist as few other lenses might. A consistently interesting book challenges us to examine out contemporary social investment in marriage.”—Virginia Quarterly Review
Choice

“By combining iconographic and formal analysis of works by Hopper and O’Keeffe with a consideration of biographical details of their marriages, Fryd demonstrates how each expressed the positives and negatives in their separate relationships. Fryd not only sheds compelling new light on the work of two of the US’s most prominent artists but also illuminates issues of family, gender, and sexuality.”--Choice

Washington Times - Alexander Eliot
"This volume is handsomely produced and packed with intriguing illustrations . . . Fryd's research is rich in detailed information."
Journal of the History of Sexuality - Betsy Fahlman
"An important scholarly contribution to what is already a considerable literature on these artists. . . . Fryd has examined the issues that shaped the lives of several significant artists, effectively connecting their individual experience with public visual culture. In this bold and imaginative volume she has presented information and ideas that should engage readers from a variety of disciplines."
CAA Reviews - Marcia Brennan
“By viewing Hopper and O’Keeffe’s art collectively through the lens of marriage, Fryd traces a larger pattern of conflict and collaboration as being at the heart of their work. . . . Fryd has produced a clearly written and highly readable study . . . [she] has expanded our understanding of these mutually inflecting domains within the artistic and private lives of two of the most compelling figures in twentieth-century American art.”—Marcia Brennan, CAA Reviews
Choice
“By combining iconographic and formal analysis of works by Hopper and O’Keeffe with a consideration of biographical details of their marriages, Fryd demonstrates how each expressed the positives and negatives in their separate relationships. Fryd not only sheds compelling new light on the work of two of the US’s most prominent artists but also illuminates issues of family, gender, and sexuality.”—Choice
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226266541
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Vivien Green Fryd is an associate professor of art history and American studies at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Art and Empire: The Politics of Ethnicity in the U.S. Capitol, 1815-1860.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
PART I - MARITAL DYNAMICS
1. The Making of the Modern Marriage
2. Two Marriages: Edward and Josephine Nivison Hopper, and Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz
PART II - EDWARD HOPPER
3. The Home, the Hotel, the Road, and the Automobile
4. Shifting Power Dynamics and Sexuality: Edward Hopper's Girlie Show and Office at Night
PART III - GEORGIA O'KEEFFE
5. The Sexualization of Georgia O'Keeffe As Woman and Artist
6. Georgia O'Keeffe's Radiator Building: Gender, Sexuality, and Urban Imagery
PART IV - CONCLUSION
7. Resolutions
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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