I am a student of the visual arts who loves to research the stories behind paintings, photographs, and sculptures.
It's in the Kiss
Throughout the ages, artists have tried to capture the essence of love and romance through their interpretations of the kiss. A kiss can be a sign of love; it can be passionate, romantic, or even innocent. There have been many depictions of kisses in art across a variety of media, including paintings, sculptures, and photographs. One thing is for sure—it is a subject that captivates us all.
In the words of Edmond Rostand, "A kiss is a message too intimate for the ear, infinity captured in the bee's brief visit to a flower, secular communication with an aftertaste of heaven, the pulse rising from the heart to utter its name on a lover's lip: 'Forever." There are many artworks to choose from, and to narrow it down to just a few has been a difficult task, but here are my top five kisses in art.
Now a soft kiss—Aye, by that kiss, I vow an endless bliss.
— John Keats
1. The Lovers by René Magritte
Perhaps one of my favorite paintings ever, The Lovers by René Magritte (a Belgian surrealist artist) depicts two figures kissing through sheets that are wrapped around their heads. A lot of Magritte's art has an air of mystery and can be quite thought-provoking, as Magritte challenges the viewer to think outside of their preconceived notions of reality. Like many other artists that came before him, Magritte chose love as the subject for more than one of his pieces.
In The Lovers, Magritte depicts the frustrated desires of two figures. They are separated by barriers—perhaps ones they are blind to—and cannot fulfill their passion. Their kiss cannot be a complete kiss, as their lips never truly meet, yet I feel that although they do not touch, their desire is so great that they must try even through the barrier of the sheet. Love shall prevail!
2. Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Léon Gérôme
In a more traditional painting with perhaps the most imaginative take on love, Jean-Léon Gérôme depicts the moment when the sculpture of Galatea was brought to life by the goddess Venus in fulfillment of Pygmalion’s wish for a wife as beautiful as the sculpture he created. The idea that the artist fell so deeply in love with his creation that he asked the goddess to make her come to life is one of romance and passion. Gerome has captured the intensity of the moment beautifully, as the artist is taken aback by the realization that his sculpture has come to life, but he wastes no time to embrace and kiss her.
3. The Kiss by Gustav Klimt
Austrian born Symbolist artist Gustav Klimt painted his take on love, The Kiss, in 1908. He depicts two lovers enwrapped in each other so closely that the viewer cannot tell where one being begins and the other ends. The couple is shown in such a way that despite their lips not touching and the kiss being placed on the cheek, the moment seems that much more intimate. This is not just a kiss fueled by passion and desire; it is one of tender endearment—a kiss that is shared by two that truly are lovers.
4. V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt
Photography—the ability to capture life in the moment—is such a wonderful concept and one particularly new to the world of art if the hundreds of years of paintings and sculptures that came before its invention are taken into account. Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt famously captured the moment when an American sailor kissed a woman in a white dress in Times Square in New York City in 1945. The spontaneity and honesty of the kiss are what make this photograph so remarkable and memorable. The photograph was published in Life magazine a week after it was taken and the rest is history!
5. The Kiss by Auguste Rodin
Paintings and photographs are wonderful ways to capture kisses, but nothing can capture the entire movement and detail of the physical body during a kiss like a sculpture. Auguste Rodin, the famous French sculptor, did just that with his marble sculpture, The Kiss, in 1889. The couple is embracing and completely surrendering to their passionate kiss. Rodin captured the couple entwined in an intimate moment. The sculpture was originally a part of Rodin's bronze portal, The Gate of Hell, but it is clear these lovers deserve a piece all to themselves.
So Many Kisses, So Little Time
If only I could have chosen more famous kisses in art, but alas, I had to narrow it down to these five, which truly are my favorites. If you have any comments about these five works of art, or I failed to mention your favorite kiss, comment below. I'd love to hear from you!
Robie Benve from Ohio on September 14, 2015:
Great kiss artwork! Some I think I had never seen before, like the Gerome one. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing info on such lovely artwork.
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on August 26, 2015:
Wonderful representations. My favorite has to be the sailor and the nurse.