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Putting the ART in HEART

This Valentine’s Day, we want to highlight & celebrate several influential pieces of art from around the world, spanning as far back as the 15th Century.  These iconic works demonstrate that love truly is a universal language able to connect us all, transcending cultures, social barriers & even the passage of time.


The Arnolfini Portrait"The Arnolfini Portrait" by Jan Van Eyck

Considered one of the most original & complex paintings in Western art, this influential, full-length double portrait by Early Netherlandish artist Jan Van Eyck is believed to depict the Italian merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini & his wife. 

Although several scholarly debates have been held regarding the symbolism represented in the piece, the intimacy of the couple is clear through their placement, reflecting a deep bond & affection.


The Birth of Venus"The Birth of Venus" by Sandro Botticelli

Painted by Sandro Botticelli sometime in the mid 1480s, this masterpiece depicts Venus (the Goddess of love) emerging fully formed from the sea on an impossibly large scallop shell, flanked by other prominent figures from Greek mythology. 

Endlessly analysed, referenced, recreated & even parodied, this classic doesn’t present a traditional depiction of romantic love, but instead the very concepts of love & beauty as represented by the divine.


The Wedding Dance"The Wedding Dance (aka The Village Dance)" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Believed to be part of a series of Bruegel works from around the same time (with The Peasant Wedding & The Peasant Dance), this oil-on-panel painting presents a lively scene of 125 guests dancing joyously at a peasant wedding. 

As was customary during Renaissance era weddings, the bride is shown in black whilst the men sport codpieces.  Whilst dancing was disapproved by authorities & the Church at the time, the sense of celebration, communal spirit, love & festivity shared amongst the subjects is undeniably infectious.


The Meeting on the Turret Stairs"The Meeting on the Turret Stairs" by Frederic William Burton

This beautiful watercolour piece from Frederic William Burton illustrates a scene from the Medieval Danish ballad translated as “Hellalyle and Hildebrand” & published in Fraser’s Magazine by the painter’s close friend Whitley Stokes. 

A complicated combination of tenderness, intense yearning & closely guarded emotions bleed out from the piece through the confined space & body language of the subjects.  What (at the time of the original ballad) would have been a vulgar notion, has been elevated by the artist to the highest pitch of emotional refinement.


The Kiss"The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt

Love intimacy & sexuality can be found throughout Gustav Klimt’s work, with “The Kiss” perhaps the most recognisable of these works.  Painted using oil colours in the early 20th Century, this iconic piece depicts an intertwined couple cloaked in elaborately designed robes with touches of gold leaf, silver & even platinum throughout. 

The couple are sat at the edge of a flowery meadow, the woman resting her head gently on her lover's hand & turning her face to receive the kiss.  This tender moment feels almost voyeuristic in the seemingly natural poses of its subjects, as if we’re intruding on a stolen moment.


The Lovers II"The Lovers II" by Réné Magritte

Part of a series of surrealist paintings from Réné Magritte, Lovers II depicts a pair of figures embracing one another whilst their faces are enshrouded & obscured by white cloth. 

Sharing both a subject matter & composition similar to The Kiss, the ambiguity & dreamlike atmosphere exuded by the piece stands in stark contrast to the comforting warmth of Klimt’s work.  Forever separated by their veils, the lovers depicted evoke a sense of mystery & intrigue, actively inviting viewers to ponder the very nature of love & even human connection itself. 

The observant amongst you may have also noticed the similarity between this & the cover for the 2003 album “Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation” from Funeral for a Friend, showcasing the timeless relatability & influence of Magritte’s striking work.


Drawing of Two Men Kissing"Drawing of Two Men Kissing" by Keith Vaughan

Drawn briskly but with deliberate care, this pencil drawing from Keith Vaughan depicts two men locked in a moment of passion. 

Keith Vaughan was a British artist who lived through a time in our history when being openly homosexual was not only frowned upon, but at times, actively dangerous.  Despite making strides in acceptance, open celebrations of queer love have always been profoundly uncommon in European art, for a variety of reasons. 

Bold, clean & lacking distractions, the viewer is presented a scene of wild abandon & love (again, much like Magritte, similar to Klimt’s “The Kiss”).  The deep black edging not only draws the eye in but feels undeniably prescient given both the subject matter & proximity to the upcoming AIDs epidemic.


There have, of course, been countless representation of love throughout history & we may have missed a favourite or two of your own.
If so, why not share them with us via the details below?  We'd love to hear from you!

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