With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I curated for you a list of the ten most beautiful artworks with the love theme. Love in Art history was a common topic, and it was inspirational to artists for centuries. From kissing to just gazing at each other, love is still an inspiration in art.
Love in Art History
Love has been a common topic in art history since the old Roman and Greek times. Some of the first depictions were famous couples from the Greek myths. They weren’t that common during the Middle Ages when most topics on paintings were religious ones. However, love is coming back in art during the Renaissance and Baroque times.
Some of my favourite paintings with the love theme are from the Dutch Golden Age. Although created during the 17th century, the approach to love was quite liberal. One of the paintings showing that in the best way is Johannes Vermeer‘s The Love Letter. On it, a lady is clearly reading a letter from her lover, and we can see that by the judgemental look her maid is giving her.
Some of the most genuine representations of love in art history are 19th-century artworks, especially Romanticist and Impressionist paintings. With the overall change in the society of the 20th century, love in art history changes as well and is becoming free and inclusive.
10 most beautiful paintings with the love theme
1/ Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: Au lit: Le baiser
⤷ Where is it? Musée d’Orsay, Paris
This oil painting on cardboard was made in 1892. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a common participant and enjoyed the Parisian nightlife at the end of the 19th century. He was a familiar guest of brothels, so one of them commissioned him to create a few paintings for them. This painting is a part of a series of artworks that are considered showing lesbian couples. He presented them lying in bed or in very intimate encounters.
⤷ Read more: Impressionist paintings at Musée d’Orsay
2/ Auguste Rodin: The Kiss
⤷ Where is it? Musée Rodin, Paris
One of the most famous statues representing love in art history is Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss. Made in 1882, it was initially designed for one of Rodin’s masterpieces, The Gates of Hell. He depicted a couple from Dante’s Inferno, Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta. A few statue versions are preserved today, and they can be seen in Paris, Copenhagen and Mexico City.
3/ Rene Magritte: The Lovers
⤷ Where is it? Moma, New York
Rene Magritte is one of the most famous Surrealist artists. He made this painting, which is one of the most iconic representations of love in art history, in 1928. His idea was to recreate the cinematic close-up kiss and hide this intimate moment in a way by putting a vail over the couple. It’s a typical style of his paintings, only with a romantic twist.
⤷ Read more: The best museums in Brussels
4/ Frans Hals: Marriage Portrait of Isaac Massa and Beatrix van der Laen
⤷ Where is it? Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
I already mentioned how some of my favourite paintings with the love theme are from the Dutch Golden Ages. Although more traditional in style, we won’t find many arranged marriages among the couples presented in the Dutch paintings during the 17th century, as was the case in the rest of Europe. The middle-class people were well educated, wealthy and free to marry whomever they wanted. And you can clearly see that by this wedding portrait and a quiet happy in-love couple on it.
⤷ You can see more of these kinds of paintings in this video about the Rijksmuseum highlights
5/ Banksy: Kissing Coppers
⤷ Where is it? Prince Albert Pub, Brighton (original sold, replaced by the copy)
Kissing Coppers from 2004 is one of the most famous artworks created by Banksy. It’s a stencil graffiti representing two British policemen kissing. Although it’s not an artwork placed in a museum, its location in a pub makes it a part of the message Banksy wanted to share. He originally placed this stencil in the Prince Albert Pub in Brighton. However, since the work was constantly vandalised, the pub owners decided to sell it and put a copy instead. It’s definitely interesting to observe what kind of feeling can art provoke in its viewers.
6/ Constantin Brâncuși: The Kiss
⤷ Where is it? Craiova Art Museum, Oltenia (Romania)
How romantic is the fact that the first modern statue of the twentieth century is dedicated to love?
Constantin Brâncuși’s ‘The Kiss’ was made between 1907 and 1908 and represents a couple kissing. The artist made numerous versions of this sculpture. In its style, it’s a proto-Cubist statue, and with each other version, he geometrised it even more. However, even in this simple form, he represented love in art perfectly.
7/ Kitagawa Utamaro: Lovers in the upstairs room of a teahouse
⤷ Where is it? British Museum, London
Kitagawa Utamaro is one of the most famous Japanese artists of ukiyo-e woodblock prints and paintings. Erotic illustrations were quite popular in Japanese art in the 18th century. Utamaro was also well-known for working within that genre. However, contrary to other representatives, his work is much more sensual and intimate. Although we can not see their faces, we can feel the love and passion between the couple.
⤷ Read more: The best museums in London
8/ Peter Paul Rubens: The Honeysuckle Bower
⤷ Where is it? Alte Pinakothek, Munich
One of the first paintings depicting love in art, but also a self-portrait, is Peter Paul Rubens’ The Honeysuckle Bower. The artist painted himself and his first wife, Isabella Brant, in this painting from 1609. They are sitting in a garden, that’s a common symbol of love. However, by holding their hands, we know this is a wedding portrait, as well.
9/ Roy Lichtenstein: The Kiss II
⤷ Where is it? Private collection
It looks as there are numerous love paintings in art simply representing a kiss. And this pop art painting made in 1962 made by the famous artist Roy Lichtenstein is one of them. He made a series of artworks with a similar topic. Like the rest of his work, they were hugely inspired by strip art and advertising imagery.
10/ Gustav Klimt: The Kiss
⤷ Where is it? Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna
Klimt’s famous painting was created sometime in 1907 or 1908. He painted a couple standing at the edge of a meadow filled with flowers in front of the golden background. The couple is kissing, which was something quite common in Klimt’s work with his focus on love and intimacy. Besides that, the flatness and usage of ornaments make this painting so unique. The man’s robe is covered with geometric ornaments, while the woman’s dress is filled with circular forms. The flower meadow feels more like a texture made of floral arrangements than a part of nature.
⤷ Read more: Gustav Klimt – The Kiss
Art history is filled with beautiful presentations of love in art. There are many more, but I hope this small curated selection will remind you of some true values Valentine’s Day represents. What’s your favourite artwork with the theme of love in art? Let us know in the comments.
*Image sources: Wikipedia