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As Seen on TV

As Seen on TV

The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950s

Karal Ann Marling

ISBN 9780674048836

Publication date: 03/01/1996

America in the 1950s: the world was not so much a stage as a setpiece for TV, the new national phenomenon. It was a time when how things looked--and how we looked--mattered, a decade of design that comes to vibrant life in As Seen on TV. From the painting-by-numbers fad to the public fascination with the First Lady's apparel to the television sensation of Elvis Presley to the sculptural refinement of the automobile, Marling explores what Americans saw and what they looked for with a gaze newly trained by TV. A study in style, in material culture, in art history at eye level, this book shows us as never before those artful everyday objects that stood for American life in the 1950s, as seen on TV.


  • [Marling] offers in seven chapters some witty riffs on 50s themes: the topics evoked in As Seen on TV are, in order, women's fashion, amateur painting, the arrival of Disneyland, those fabulous finned autos, the taming of Elvis Presley, home cooking and Richard Nixon's "kitchen debate" with Nikita Khrushchev...[It is] an intellectual romp, a dizzying free fall through the exuberant 'visual culture' of that first post-World War II decade.

    —John Updike, New York Times Book Review


  • Karal Ann Marling is Professor of Art History at the University of Minnesota.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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