The ten most famous kisses in the history of art
Art has never missed an opportunity to celebrate the osmosis between two beings offered by a kiss. Painters, sculptors and photographers alike have captured this moment of love and created the most beautiful kisses in the history of art. A symbol of passion, love and intimacy, a kiss seals the union between two people at a specific time and appeals through its occasionally political universality. KAZoART looks back at the ten most famous kisses in the history of art… Laying our hearts on our sleeves!
The ten most famous kisses in the history of art
#1 Roy Lichtenstein – Kiss V (1964)
Tears, a kiss, an embrace. A sad goodbye or an moving reunion? Roy Lichtenstein’s serigraphy shows the poignancy and emotion of a union between two beings. Characterized by a colourful, pop universe, the artwork takes its inspiration and graphic style from the world of comics.
#2 Gustav Klimt – The Kiss (1907 – 08)
During his “Golden Period”, Gustav Klimt painted one of the most famous love scenes in the history of art. On a sensual background, the kiss brings together a man and woman who seem to abandon themselves to each other. In clear asymmetry, this gold-bathed, body-to-body embrace is almost like a sacred emblem. No-one would dare disturb the two…
#3 Magritte – The Lovers (1928)
Love, faces hidden. The man and woman in the painting seem so close and yet so far. This paradoxical distance gives Magritte’s artwork both beauty and mystery. As a teenager, Magritte’s mother drowned, her nightgown covering her face. Might there be a parallel here? The artist has left the piece open to interpretation. Profound love, denial, rejection or simply the unknown are all possibilities. A masterpiece of surrealism, in which romanticism – seen here blunted and hemmed in – prevents all communication, even a kiss, that nonetheless seals the union underneath the white fabric, in spite of everything. A symbol of life? Of death? According to the artist, there is no real meaning behind his artworks…
#4 Rodin – The Kiss (circa 1882)
This is one of the best-known love scenes in the history of art. True love in its purest form. Two beings enveloped in each other’s arms, sculpted from a single block of marble, free to love one another for eternity. A poignant embrace that in fact is more anecdotal than it seems at first. Francesca da Ramini, the woman depicted in the piece, kisses her lover. Surprising them as they fall in love, Francesca’s husband kills them both, condemning the two to roam Hell for eternity.
The characters from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy were originally designed to be part of a group of sculptures, but the pair’s success led Rodin to make the sculpture an independent piece, without ever agreeing on the true identity of the two (star-crossed?) lovers…
#5 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – In Bed: The Kiss (1892 – 1893)
Now let’s take a look at this loving embrace from Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. This stunning scene reveals the passion of love between two women. Covered by a sheet and wrapped up in one another, the two young women appear inseparable. The moment is intense, intimate and sensual. The artist has immortalized the tenderness of this interaction between two women who are thought to be sex workers.
#6 Banksy – Kissing Coppers (2004)
Banksy has also left his mark on Brighton, England. In 2004, he painted a pair of gay policemen kissing on a wall. Now a well-known landmark, this famous piece of street art is controversial, to say the least. The stencil sold at auction in 2014 for the modest sum of $575,000 (approx. €418,000 at the time).
Are they simply partners? Whatever the case, the painting depicts the close relationship between members of the police force, who here still carry their work tools on them (handcuffs for one, a police baton for the other), and was perhaps created from the artist’s desire to ridicule the two in an act of protest against authority.
#7 Marc Chagall – Birthday (1915)
A celebration of love by Marc Chagall. After returning to Russia to ask his partner Bella to marry him, the artist painted this scene of everyday life in which the couple celebrates the birthday of Chigall, whose body floats gently on the air. Might love have given him wings?
A day of celebration spent as a couple, all carefully prepared by Bella. A bouquet of flowers in hand, a cake on the table… everything is in place to make her husband the happiest man on earth. Although surrealist, this romantic scene overflows with almost supernatural poetry… But where are Chagall’s arms?
#8 Victor Jorgensen – Kissing the War Goodbye (1945)
The date is 14 August 1945, we are in New York, and Japan has just surrendered. It is a day of victory for the United States, as is shown through this passionate embrace between US marine Glenn McDuffy and young nurse Edith Shain. The end of the Second World War led to many scenes of joy across Times Square that day. This photo was taken by US marine Victor Jorgensen.
Another photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt also immortalized the scene from another angle. In the other photo, we have a better view of the background of Times Square and the two protagonists’ entire bodies. Eisenstaedt wrote of the photo, “the contrast between his dark uniform and her white dress is what gives the picture the extra impact.”
#9 Antonio Canova – Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss (1787 – 1793)
Cupid has also inspired a large number of sculptors! The magnificent statue Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss that unites Cupid and Psyche was created by artist Antonio Canova. The young, winged man comes to help the young, unconscious woman as she lies on a rock. Plunged into a deep sleep after opening a forbidden bottle despite the explicit order not to by Cupid’s mother Venus, she is tenderly embraced by Cupid, who ensures she is still alive. He sits her upright, lovingly holding her neck after she finally regains the ability to love and be loved in return.
#10 Constantin Brâncuși – The Kiss (1909)
The fusion of two bodies into one. This is the beauty that emanates from this sculpture by Constantin Brâncuși. The French-Romanian sculptor tackles the subject of love here with quasi-abstraction. The two interlaced bodies that form one are a symbol of complete fusion. A single block of limestone sufficed to create this union in which a man and woman are so close the final result is almost misleading.
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