«The kiss; 34 facial muscles and a bundle of happy hormones. The ultimate romantic gesture that has been performed for centuries. No artist can allude to romance without this gentle gesture, but this ritual has been represented in a variety of ways over the years. From tender and romantic to dark and mysterious, sketches to sculpture, this age old practice is art’s most romantic theme. Here are some of the art world’s most iconic representations of this love induced act.
Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville, 1950 – Robert Doisneau. Captured by Doisneau for Life magazine, this image came to represent the young love in Paris, and as such became one of photography’s most romantic images. Although the couple remained a mystery until the 1992, Doisneau was not as spontaneous as the photo suggests; he actually saw the couple kissing but approached them afterwards and asked if they could recreate the act so he could capture it on film.
The Kiss, 1962 – Roy Lichtenstein. This ambiguous image is typical of Lichtenstein’s style and cemented his status as one of Pop Art’s finest. It is unknown what scenario has occurred to bring these two characters together, such as whether her lover is leaving or arriving, and the woman’s emotions over the consequence of such a situation. But perhaps the most significant question of this piece is where is the kiss in this painting?
The Kiss, 1902 – Edvard Munch. Munch’s depiction of this romantic act was created in two views. The original sketch, unlike the painting, featured the couple nude which created a far rawer and more honest depiction of love. The faces of the lovers are melded together, becoming one, the ultimate representation of love depicted in Munch’s dramatically dark style.
The Kiss, 1907-08 – Gustav Klimt. Originally titled ‘Der Kuss’, this is Klimt’s most famous work. The image expresses Klimt’s obsession with the erotic and deviates from the more prominent female figure in his art which plays up to a femme fatale stereotype. The couple express a deep and passionate love, which is a subject that Klimt studied in a large amount of his work. Seemingly one shape, the couple’s position and outline has also been stated by critics as being phallic, an observation that plays on the erotic and passionate side to this painting.
The Kiss, 1889 – Auguste Rodin. This marble statue is one of the most famous sculptures by Auguste Rodin. It is considered by many as one of the only sculptures ever created that conveys the true emotion of the characters in love. Influenced by Dante’s Inferno, it is said to represent Francesca da Rimini and her husband Giovanni Malatesta. Originally considered too erotic and controversial for public display, it has since inspired many copies over the years and remains the maestro of romantic sculptures.
The Kiss, 1916 – Constantin Brancusi. Brancusi was well known in the art world for his simplistic style and folk inspired sculptures. Unlike most representations of the ultimate romantic gesture which exude the gloss and glamour of romanticism, Brancusi’s version is extremely simple. Only the basic gesture is shown in it’s most unpretentious form. The couple are almost indistinguishable and the original block of stone used to carve the piece is still visible. This plays yet again to the idea that the union is the predominant focus of the sculpture.
Il bacio, 1859 – Francesco Hayez. Italian artist Hayez is best known for this painting, translated as ‘The Kiss’, which considered one of the most passionate and intensely romantic representations of love in art history. There is an element of danger and mystery to the painting, from the shadowy figures that hide in the corner to the rushed pose of the male lover in this image. Hayez specifically made his couple unrecognizable as he wanted the act of kissing to be the main feature, rather than the characters themselves.
V-J day in Times Square, 1945 – Alfred Eisenstaedt. Arguably one of the most iconic images of World War Two, this photo was taken by photojournalist Eisenstaedt on August 14, 1945. The image shows an American sailor kissing a young woman and captures the celebratory atmosphere of the day. To this day, the image is still recreated in films or sculptures and is the typical ‘Hollywood‘ kiss.
L’Amour et Psyché, 1873 – William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Translated as Cupid and Psyche as Children, this work is often mistaken as being called ‘The first kiss’. The epitome of love, this painting combines this romantic act with love’s most famous mascot, Cupid. This image has been replicated many times and is one of the most famous paintings surrounding the theme of love.
Kiss, 1963 – Andy Warhol. This fifty minute silent film shows couples kissing, which were shot in sequences of three and a half minutes each then later strung together to make the longer film. This was one of the first films to come out of The Factory and showcased Warhol’s technique for expanding on the idea of still photography. His predilection for subjects pertaining to the sexual and intimate was evident in a large amount of his work, and this piece is no exception.»