From courtship to heartbreak, six works from the Carleton Art Collection trace the realities of the imperfect loves too often left out of the mainstream depictions touting idealized love.

Albrecht Dürer’s Young Couple Threatened by Death (The Promenade) shows a couple at the beginning of a courtship; a skeletal representation of Death with an hourglass atop his head lurks in the background. His presence reminds the viewer that life, and love, are ephemeral – even though this dire fact is often forgotten during early stages of love.

Jan Willem Jordaan’s First Love represents the passion commonly felt between couples in the beginning; the two figures caress each other, unaware of the chaotic outside world. A third figure lies beneath the

In Elliott Erwitt’s Bratsk, Siberia we see a young couple on their wedding day. However, instead of radiating happiness they are distracted; the adjacent man smirks and stares off in the distance. We are left to wonder what interaction between the two parties lead to the couple’s disdainful expressions. Had the man cracked wise about the future of the couple or the prospect of marriage? Something has shaken the couple, whether or not it affects their marriage, only time will tell.

In perhaps the most ideal and realistic scene, Erwitt’s Kent England shows a nude couple outdoors; the woman knits while her partner stares down at the ground before them. Rather than an idealized depiction of a couple overwhelmed by passion we get an honest portrait of a long married pair completely comfortable and yet emotionally removed from each other

In Erwitt’s Las Vegas, Nevada we see the final, ignored reality of love. The woman is alone, her expression fixed on the mechanical cowboy in front of her. The reality of love is that it may come to an end.   Or, as in this case, the old woman’s romantic opportunity is with a machine, a surrogate partner.

Larry Fink’s False Men and Their Makers (Studio 54) displays the gritty side of the most glamorous 1970s night club. Instead of the expected excitement, the faces show boredom, vulnerability, and discomfort — perhaps the actual emotions experienced in the depths of the club. 

Description and image selection by Kaia Wahmanholm ’15.