ARTSY: The “Wife Guys” of Art History

 by Alina Cohen
If you’ve been following internet reporting for a millisecond, you’ve surely heard about the “wife guy.” Tom Whyman coined the term in May 2019, but over at the New York TimesAmanda Hess succinctly and helpfully defined the character, who pops up on Instagram and Twitter: The “wife guy” is a man who has “married a woman, and now that is his personality.” Examples include Robbie Tripp, who defended his love for his curvy wife and has turned his ardor into a speaking gig; Shaun McBride, who filmed his wife tumbling off a “cliff” (er, a hill with some rocks) and made a YouTube film about it; and one man who impersonated his wife online to develop a comedy persona.
Before humans invented social media (ca. 1995), and after they developed the institution of marriage (ca. 2350 B.C.E.), male artists served as some of history’s greatest wife guys. Painting, photographing, and performing with their wives became crucial to these men’s aesthetic identities. Resulting artworks reveal varying degrees of desire, obsession, and pure utilitarianism: When looking for subject matter, sometimes the best options are just on the other side of the bed.
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August 29, 2019
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