Art History



Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art History (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work

Qualifying paper


Craig Eliason

Second Advisor

Heather M. Shirey

Third Advisor

William L. Barnes


This paper examines a 1923 Arrow collar and shirt ad titled The Dancing Couple by Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874-1951) to determine how it functions as a lifestyle ad, specifically focusing on how upper-class life is portrayed, how these visual elements interact with other aspects of American society in the 1920s, and how they help reinforce systems of power present in visual media. Leyendecker’s Arrow ads were enormously successful, solidifying the Arrow brand to be synonymous with class, making them particularly fruitful advertisements to study. Using psychology
and reception theory to examine visual signs derived from fine art and a sociological lens regarding contextual historical analysis, this paper argues that the composition, style, and subject matter of The Dancing Couple reveal the complex interplay of class structure in post-World War I America regarding art collection, clothing, gender, race, appearance, dancing, and film. Its portrayal of class relations regarding art is in its imitation of Impressionism’s style and through the history of poster art. The Dancing Couple illustrates haute couture while also evoking the democratization of clothing,
especially regarding the Arrow collars that it advertises. Both the man and woman in the illustration show idealized body types corresponding to gender ideals and gender roles and their white skin affords them privileges in American society, especially in the era of increased immigration, popularity of eugenics, and Neoclassical idealism. The subject of the couple dancing evokes high society events, but also the dance craze that began in working-class dance halls and transformed American society. Lastly, the stylistic lighting evokes the new film industry which promoted and elevated its movie stars and shared their successes with the middle- and low-class movie-goers who
made the industry successful.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.