The Look of Love Captured in Art History
For centuries artists have been portraying moments inspired by romantic love in a multitude of ways. In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are four of our favorite artworks that capture the playful, blissful, passionate, and tender qualities of love.
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, 1767
This relatively small oil painting by French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard is bursting with salacious subtext. A gentleman of the court reportedly requested Fragonard paint his mistress being pushed on a swing as he secretly admired her from below.
There is so much sauciness to unpack in The Swing, we really don’t have enough time to go into every detail, but you can watch a quick and insightful clip to learn more.
Gustav Klimt, The Kiss, 1907
Painted in 1907 during his “Golden Period” The Kiss is arguably one of Klimt’s most iconic works. Inspired by Byzantine mosaics, Klimt used gold leaf to create glimmering planes and delicate details that emphasize the ethereal, majestic nature of his style and subjects. Learn more here.
Nan Goldin, Rise and Monty Kissing, New York City, 1980
Photographer Nan Goldin is known for capturing deeply intimate and personal moments with friends, lovers, and strangers alike. Her work evokes a feeling of closeness and immediacy, and it feels as if we are there watching this passion-fueled scene unfold. This photograph is part of a roughly 700-image slideshow titled The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1985), featuring photographs of her life in New York in the 1970s and ‘80s.
Kerry James Marshall, Slow Dance, 1992–1993
Kerry James Marshall is one of the most revered artists today, and is most known for his monumental paintings of Black history and culture, deeply rooted in both his personal history as well as western art history. In much of Marshall’s work, he challenges predominant art historical narratives and presents work that triumphantly subverts the canon in remarkable ways.
Watch Marshall talk about the inspiration for Slow Dance here.