A Survey of Awkward Couples in Art History

Love has spawned many a great masterpiece over the course of art history. But don’t be fooled; just because something hangs on the pristine white wall of a museum doesn’t mean it isn’t a record of extreme awkwardness. From depictions of lovers or spouses to fathers and daughters to siblings, art history is filled with uncomfortable pairings — some of which were always meant to strike us as bizarre and others that only seem strange to 21st-century eyes. We take a look at some of our favorite odd duos after the jump.

David Hockney, Mr. and Mrs. Percy, 1970-1971

Hockney depicts fashion designer Ossie Clark and textile designer Celia Birtwell shortly after their wedding, but the picture is hardly a celebration of newlywed bliss. The couple seems disconnected, emotionally and spatially. Birtwell is dolled up with her hand on her hip while Clark is causally dressed and lounging in a chair, looking detached. The viewer has clearly interrupted an uncomfortable situation — you can almost feel the iciness in the room. The painting proved to be prophetic as the couple separated a few years later. Initially a gift to the couple, Mr. and Mrs. Percy now hangs in the Tate Gallery and is among their most popular paintings.