Photo caption: The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli has been a visual representation of love for centuries. Image by Creative Commons.
Art history is filled with epic, almost heroic depictions of love and passion. Indeed, we have learned much about the nature of love by the record that some amazing artists have left behind. Even though many of these works were painted centuries ago and are very much products of their time, they also have the transcendent quality that all great paintings have.
As an online art school, we encourage our students to continue to study art history throughout their artistic lives, and while it’s important to study pieces of art in the context in which they were created, it’s also useful to study them thematically. So, with no further ado and in honor of Valentine’s Day, we’d like to highlight five famous paintings about love in this post.
Klimt’s painting The Kiss is one of the most famous paintings about love in the history of art. In this oil painting, which Klimt painted sometime between 1907 and1908, the artist used gold leaf as a decorative enhancement.
The painting’s elements show the influence of the Art Nouveau movement, but also visually hearken back to earlier ages, when works like illuminated manuscripts and Byzantine mosaics were popular forms of art. The composition of The Kiss shows a couple in an embrace, set against a visually flat background. Geometric patterns and elegant swirls add a decorative element to the painting.
Painted in 1883, Dance in the Country was one of three dance-themed paintings that Renior painted for his supporter Paul Durand-Ruel. The Impressionistic painting, which features Renior’s wife, Aline, depicts a couple enjoying a spontaneous dance in a country setting.
The dancers’ clothing and body language allowed the artist to show a sense of movement in this painting about love. Its vibrancy and sense of intimacy come from the artist’s choice of subject matter, as well as his use of warm colors and nuanced lighting.
Flaming June by Sir Frederic Leighton shows that it isn’t necessary to show a couple in love to convey a sense of romance in a painting. The use of soft light, colors and flowing clothing in the piece create its sense of romance. Leighton submitted the painting to the Royal Academy for an exhibition in the late 1890s.
Although he was a contemporary of the Pre-Raphaelites, his relationship with the other painters in that group was a complicated one. While he agreed with their stance on poetic idealism, he disagreed with their leanings toward realism.
Jacques-Louis David created The Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis in 1818 as a pendant painting to his work Love and Psyche. This type of work - that is work created in pairs - is meant to mirror each other thematically in some way and are often hung together to create a symmetrical look.
David’s mythological piece was commissioned by Count Franz Erwein von Schonborn-Wiesentheid. It drew inspiration from Homer’s great work The Odyssey.
The goddess of love, Venus, makes this painting a natural for a list of paintings celebrating Valentine’s Day. It shows Venus arriving on the island of Cyprus via wind and seashell. The flowers and greenery symbolize spring.
It is believed that Botticelli painted the piece in around 1485, possibly for the Medici family, due to the orange trees in the painting. The orange tree was an emblem of the Medici family.
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