Interactive art


Kisses  à  la  Grec

A 5th century B.C.  Attic  bowl (from an ancient Greek province which encompassed Athens) depicts  a man and youth kissing. There are many such representations found especially in vase painting, and thousands of inscriptions celebrating the beauty of youths.

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Gothic  Art

Turning away from the iconic traditions of earlier religious art, Giotto de Bondone (c. 1267 – 1337) painted what were for his time remarkably realistic scenes, imbuing his subjects with identifiable emotions. In his “Kiss of Judas”, Giotto depicts perhaps the most notorious kiss in human history.  In this crammed scene of overlapping figures, Christ and his betrayer face one another. Judas almost completely envelopes Christ in his cloak, as if to render the two men as one.  Their gaze and physical closeness is reminiscent of the mesmerizing power of a love kiss and contrasts sharply with the violent confusion taking place around them. It is unclear if Judas is about to kiss Christ or has just placed the kiss, but  the potency of the  kiss is central to the image.

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Renaissance Kisses  -  Feeling  reborn

Around 1545, Agnolo Bronzino was commissioned to create a painting which has come to be known as Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time. In it mother and son appear on the verge of a sexual tryst: Cupid fondles his mother’s breast and kisses her on the lips. Suggestively, Venus’ legs appear to be slightly spread and her tongue is visible. This latter point caused much scandal and at least one owner apparently had it painted out. An astounding painting, it has provoked much scholarly controversy and, to this day, no two art historians agree on the overall idea of the painting.

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Neoclassical -style Kisses  -  Just like the  first  time, only better

Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) is famed for his devotional  and mythological pieces.  Completed between 1787 and 1793, ‘Cupid and Psyche’ captures the familiar myth (see above), showing the couple on the verge of an embrace. Canova’s kiss is perpetually imminent as the pair’s lips do not touch .

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Rococo

French painter Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806) had several styles, but was most popular for his whimsically romantic subjects. ‘The Stolen Kiss’ shows an attractive young couple, the woman dressed in a full-skirted lace and satin dress, and her would-be lover  in the act of kissing her cheek while making a getaway through the window.  Through the color of flesh and fabric the picture expresses an indulgence which would have pleased a pre-Revolutionary upper class, and Fragonard’s ‘kissing bandit’ is the epitome of Rococo style’s impishness.

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Romanticism

Franceso Hayez (1791-1882) was a popular Italian portraitist who also rendered historical and allegorical subjects. A particular talent was for capturing the look and ‘feel’ of opulent cloth, a point which likely drew wealthy sitters who wished to have themselves depicted in their finery. ‘The  Kiss’,  painted in 1859, shows a couple, their embrace obscuring their faces in what is obviously a passionate stolen moment. However the eye dwells not on their kiss but on the dazzling quality of the lady’s dress, an example of Hayez’s virtuosity.

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Pre- Raphaelites

‘The Meeting on the Turret Stairs’ (1864) is one of the better-known works of Irish  painter  Frederic William Burton. The theme comes from a medieval Danish ballad concerning the tragic affair between Hellelil and her personal guard Hildebrand. Their love being discovered by Hellelil’s father, he orders Hildebrand’s death. Hildebrand kills Hellelil’s father and six brothers before she intercedes to save the youngest. Hildebrand dies of his wounds and Hellelil herself dies shortly afterwards. Burton’s work illustrates the final meeting of the lovers. Placing their farewell on the turret stairs, Bruton’s  invention of the kiss on the woman’s outstretched arm and the lack of eye contact adds poignancy to the painting.

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Cherub Kisses

‘L’Amour et Psyché’  (1890), more  popularly known as ‘The  First  Kiss’, is a depiction of two  kissing  cherubs by Adolphe-William Bouguereau (1825-1905). As was common among painters in the second half of the 19th century, Bouguereau made a concentrated study of form and technique and drew deeply on classical inspiration. The warmth with which he portrayed children and domestic scenes is a trademark of his style, and this example became a greetings card classic.

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Realistic  Kisses – Not for the faint of  heart

Auguste Rodin’s naturalistic style was deemed quite outrageous and crude when first displayed. The couple in “The Kiss” are not idealized, classically nude figures; rather they are naked and openly sexual, although the couple’s lips do not actually meet.

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Impressionist  Kisses  -  cos  you only  get  one chance to make it  count

As one of the originators of  the impressionist movement, Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) is known for his loose energetic brushstrokes. However, an early work ‘Kiss of the Muse’ (or ‘The Dream of the Poet’) shows none of the energy with which his paintings are associated and certainly does not suggest Cezanne had been kissed by a muse at this stage.

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‘An American in Paris’  Kisses

Mary Stevenson Cassat (1844-1926) was an American artist closely associated with Edgar Degas among others.  Having striven hard she finally attained some recognition in later life for her work depicting “mother and child” scenes. She succeeded in avoiding the over-sentimentality that is often associated with the genre.  ‘Maternal Kiss’ depicts a quiet moment of reassurance for a beautiful child in distress.

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‘Going in for the  kiss’ kisses  – or ‘if  looks  could kill’

‘Dance at Bougival’ by  Renoir  depicts a  couple  dancing, he seemingly  about  to kiss her and  she  looking  away,  her  mouth  drooping.  Renoir’s model was Suzanne Valadon, a famous  artist in her own right, who had  been dressmaker before becoming an acrobat and following  a  fall, an artists’ model. A  muse and  lover  of Renoir’s,  it is   thought he depicted her  with a  drooping mouth   as  a  comment on his  on  feeling  regarding women: their role was either domestic, or providing inspiration for him. His portrayal of her suggests Renoir’s uneasiness with Suzanne as an independent-spirited person

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Post Impressionist  Kisses  – (the type to leave an  aftertaste)

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 –1901) is famous for his works capturing the Paris demi-monde of the late 19th c. Some of his most intimate paintings are those depicting lesbian embraces among ‘off-duty’ prostitutes. Mornings and afternoons in brothels afforded women time to relax together and Lautrec’s most provocative sketch is The Kiss (1892) in which two women are shown on a bed, their bodies closely entwined in a mutual embrace. According to his biographer Julia Frey, Lautrec was especially adept at portraying body language. These figures do not have to speak their love; it is clear from their natural pose.

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Abstract Kisses -  Obscured intentions

Romanian modernist sculptor Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) simplified forms in his sculpture, subverting centuries of sculptural tradition, fusing both the influence of his classical training and his peasant backround. His philosophy of expressing “the idea, the essence of things” drove his artistic conceptions, and his ‘The Kiss’ (1916) bears a resemblance to the statuary of Easter Island in its ‘primitive’ look.

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Art Nouveau Kisses

Gustav Klimt (1862 -1918) painted his The Kiss in 1907-8, — undoubtedly his most famous work and now a stalwart of undergraduate bedroom walls everywhere. A couple are depicted in gold leaf and embellished with coloured symbols.  Only their faces, hands and feet may be seen. A joyful and exuberant expression of sexual love, Klimt’s The Kiss is also a defining expression of decadence in turn-of the century Vienna.

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Modernism

Marc Chagall began  painting ‘Bouquet aux Amoureux volants’ or  ‘Bouquet of Flying Lovers’ (1947) in Paris probably as early as 1933-4 and  worked on it at intervals over many years.  The setting is an interior with a big window on the right. The lovers’ heads  emerge at the top of a bouquet,  their bodies concealed behind it. In the top right-hand corner an angel flies through the window with one hand extended towards them. Chagall regarded the picture as one expressing feelings of loss and nostalgia.

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Expressionist

Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944), best known for ‘The Scream’, produced several paintings addressing relationships. His ‘The Kiss by the Window’ (a subject to which he returned again and again) depicts a pair of lovers who are ‘as one’ to such a degree that their faces dissolve into one another.

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Cubist  Kisses - Sharp edged

Among the many cubist interpretations of “The Kiss” executed by Pablo Picasso is one painted a day before his 88th birthday. Whether it is his best is open to debate, but in any case it sold for an eye-watering US $15.5 million dollars (US $17.4 million after adding buyer’s premium) in Sotheby’s  New York saleroom in 2008.

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Surreal  Kisses  – Wow, you blew my mind.

In  René Magritte’s  ‘Lovers’  (1928)  two  lovers  kiss, wrapped  in shrouds. The symbolism here is of love blinded, the  cloth  separating the pair as the  spectre of  death envelops  passion. As an interesting aside, Magritte’s  mother  drowned   when  he was a  child and when  she was  found,  her   nightgown  covered her  head.

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Pop  Art  Kisses

‘The Kiss’ (1962) by American artist Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) amplifies a classic ‘comic book’ kiss to iconic proportions. The bold colours and obvious Ben-Day dots of the printing process recall the advertising and popular press of the day, and in their brazenness challenge the conventions of early 1960s morality.

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Warhol  Kisses

In 1963 a little-known Andy Warhol bought a silent camera and on 16 mm film started recording  friends and acquaintances kissing in uninterrupted 3-4 minute takes. This project was to launch his career as an artist. A new kiss was run each week at Gramercy Arts Theater in New York and the resulting series was called Kiss, a 54 minute underground film comprising a montage of the short films spliced together.  It featured various couples of various sexes; sometimes the gender of a kisser was undetermined.

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