Over a course of art history, painters, sculptors, poets, and photographers have used their imagination to bring the kiss to art. Defined as a symbol of life, renewed love, the beginning of an erotic, or of intimacy, the kiss in art tells not only the tales of love but the stories of protest or even of separation.
The act of kissing is considered as one of the most intimate acts two figures can share between each other. It is no wonder that the moment of such closeness caught the attention of numerous artists. Some showcased the kiss in art as a violent, almost cannibalistic act, while others attempted to showcase the poetics of love. Be it as it may, artists often used the act of kissing as an allegory to another to theme.
All images used for illustrative purposes only. Featured image: Antonio Canova - Psyche Revived by the Lover's Kiss, detail. Image via wallpaper.com; Pablo Picasso - Le Baiser, detail. Image via wallpaper.com; Egon Schiele - Two girls embracing. Image via wallpaper.com.
Painted in 1890’s by Jean-Leon Gerome the painting Pygmalion and Galatea depicts a tale from Ovid’s Metamorphoses of Pygmalion creating a sculpture of Galatea. Understanding the sculpture as the perfect female form, by the power of the Love goddess Venus, the marble sculpture is brought to life. The moment of the erotic embrace and the moment of the first kiss between the sculptor and its masterpiece is here presented. The joyful embrace of the two figures in the artist studio is one of the masterpieces of images which showcase the power of love and of desire.
Featured image: Jean Leon Gerome - Pygmalion and Galatea. Image via nssmag.com
The Kiss produced by French-Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi offers a symbolic interpretation of a male and female body merging into one. This stone piece is quite possibly one of the most famous examples of abstract sculpture and a piece which beautifully illustrates Brancusi’s interest as an artist. The respect to the material and the research into the human condition, which defines the entire production of the artist is so remarkably displayed here. The division between the two figures is defined through a single line and in fact this is only a symbolic division as the figures are carved out of one single limestone block.
Featured image: Constantin Brancusi - The Kiss, detail. Image via pinterest.com
Resembling a film still, this cropped photograph showcases Man Ray’s interest in a cinematic narrative. His black and white photograph The Kiss is a close up of a couple’s lips meeting in a delicate and sensual kiss. Possibly, it would be better to say, an annunciation of a kiss, since in, fact, the lips only slightly touch. Famous as both a commercial and fine artist, Man Ray’s works were influenced by Cubism, Dada, Futurism, and Surrealism. At one point, successful as a fashion photographer, Man Ray is in, fact, worldly recognized as the creator of camera-less photography which he named Rayographs.
Featured image: Man Ray - The Kiss. Image via wikimedia.org
For many, the painting The Kiss created by Gustave Klimt is the iconic image of ‘kiss art’. Rumored to represent the artist himself locked in an erotic embrace with his lover Emilie Flöge, the painting is one of the artist’s most beloved and celebrated pieces. Due to a large amount of the gold color used to create this painting, the image is often linked to the religious icon images. Many critics suggest that Klimt did in, fact, attempt to create a modern icon, something that would transcend his public. There is possibly no better way one should view and define a perfect kiss between lovers that this one, the idea that kiss takes us to a different state of being.
Featured image: Gustave Klimt – The Kiss, detail. Image via Wikimedia.com
If there ever was a name which to most of us evokes the idea of a lavish bohemian world in Paris, then it is the name of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Known as the painter that documented the Paris night-life, Lautrec was also celebrated as a designer of the most beautiful posters produced by the lithography technique. His painting Dans le lit, or In Bed: The Kiss, depicts two figures in a lover’s embrace. Presumably, the two figures are in fact two female prostitutes depicted in bed and kissing. As a part of the series of works which focused on the relationship between two female figures caught in their intimacy, Lautrec produced several paintings of this subject.
Featured image: Henri de Toulouse Lautrec -Dans le lit. Image via pinterest.com
Even though many would debate the significance of the drawing medium in today’s contemporary art production, the expression of the line and of the erotic, almost cannibalistic force of the kiss drawn by Pablo Picasso we cannot ignore. As if the lovers are devouring one another in a lustful embrace, the drawing shares the idea of a great passion. Created by Picasso at the age of 86, many understand this images as a piece which illustrates the artist’s joy of life.
Featured image: Pablo Picasso - The Kiss. Image via tate.org.uk
Painted upon his return to Russia to propose and marry his love Bella, Marc Chagall’s painting illustrates the force of love. The two figures, presented to lightheartedly float in a state of a romantic bliss, celebrate each other. As if he was painting a promise of his return, the painting radiates true force of powerful and yet tranquil love. The poetry of Chagall’s visual language is considered to be one of the richest in art’s history and the painter is considered as one of the most important painters of the 20th-century.
Featured image: Marc Chagall - L'anniversaire. Image via nssmag.com
Considered as one of the most mysterious masterpieces of surrealist painting, Rene Magritte’s artwork The Lovers is on purposely left open to various interpretations. Presenting two figures with their faces covered by a white cloth, locked in an ambiguous setting, and unable to truly communicate or touch, many wonder if this is an image of denied love. The deathlike cloth keeps the two figures forever apart and as such create an atmosphere of mystery which celebrated this image.
Featured image: Rene Magritte - The Lovers. Image via renemagritte.org
Agony and ecstasy fuse into one melodramatic guilty pleasure in Roy Lichtenstein’s painting Kiss V. Influenced by artists who experimented with artworks based on everyday life, Lichtenstein began his career depicting semi-abstract scenes of the Old West but soon switched to producing both prints and paintings referencing the world of comics and advertisements. Celebrated as one of the most influential Pop Art artists, Lichtenstein often created artworks as if they were a blown-up cartoons or comic images. His painting Kiss V appears as if it is a cut-out from a newspaper comic depicting a scene of a meeting sealed with tears and a kiss.
Featured image: Roy Lichenstein - The Kiss. Image via pinterest.com
In 2004, in Brighton, on a wall next to a pub, the graffiti, created by the celebrated artist Banksy, of the two policemen kissing appeared. With this piece, the acclaimed and the mysterious artist, not only denounced homophobia but also ridiculed the authority. This image of the act of kissing is defined as a form of protest art and as such has been widely copied or appropriated.
Featured image: Banksy - The Kissing Coppers. Image via nssmag.com