WASHINGTON (AP) — The chief arts critic of The Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize Monday for criticism for a series of works that include his writings on the Corcoran Gallery of Art, a popular image of the Obamas and exhibitions in Washington.

Philip Kennicott was honored “for his eloquent and passionate essays on art and the social forces that underlie it.” The Pulitzer jury noted Kennicott strives to make his topics relevant to readers.

Kennicott said he was surprised by the honor. While he’s been a finalist in the past, Kennicott said “it’s much more fun to actually win it.”

Kennicott’s writings in 2012 included criticism of material that not everyone would necessarily consider art to examine the sociology of images.

In one case, he focused on an image that went viral on social media of President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama hugging. It was entitled, “Snapshot of an equal, modern marriage.” Kennicott said he was trying to offer his sense of what the picture meant.

His favorite piece, though, was delving into why people are drawn to images of horror, in particular the picture published by the New York Post of a man standing in front of a subway train after he had been pushed onto the tracks.

“Like it or not, these kinds of images give people a particular kind of pleasure, a glimpse at the disordered, frightening, repellent side of life, and often the disordered, frightening and repellent side of ourselves,” he wrote.

Kennicott said he wanted to examine the habit of sharing such images that has evolved beyond newspapers to include Twitter and Facebook.

“It essentially was an essay about ugliness and the way that ugliness circulates,” he said.

Kennicott joined the Post in 1999 after working as a classical music critic for the Detroit News and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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