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The best 10 kisses in art history

From Klimt to Banksy

The best 10 kisses in art history  From Klimt to Banksy

2014. Tatia Pilieva asks 20 strangers to kiss in front of her camera. This is how the black and white video First Kiss was born and quickly became viral.

It's just one of the latest examples in which kiss and art are related.

From ancient Pompeii Roman paintings to Banksy's graffiti, "the pink apostrophe between the words I love you" was represented in hundreds of different ways and styles.

Many are its characteristics: innocent, passionate, rough, playful, fraternal, seal of promise, a pledge of love, straight, gay, on the cheek, forehead or lips.

Considered for a long time an erotic, sinful subject, it was unpopular until the second half of the Eighteenth century, then established itself in the Nineteenth century with the development throughout the Europe of Romanticism.

If the most famous kisses are works by Klimt and Hayez, almost all artists have created their own version. Rodin was inspired by the Divine Comedy lovers Paolo and Francesca, Sir Dicksee by Romeo and Juliet, Canova by Cupid and Psyche. Cezanne paints the kiss between an artist and his muse, Chagall between himself and his wife, Caravaggio between Narcissus and his reflection, Marsh between Kanye West and Kanye West.

Too many works to mention.

Here are the 10 paintings of the most celebrated and iconic kisses.


#1 Francesco Hayez - The Kiss

It's considered the romantic art manifesto. This oil on canvas, dated 1859, is available in four versions that differ in some details like the colours of the clothes and depicts two lovers kissing passionately.

Hayez, a Venetian artist of French origins, creates an iconic work that hides traces of romance in the ideals of the Risorgimento: Austrian anti-spirit and desire for national unification.

Same issues and scene from The Kiss can be found in Luchino Visconti 1954 film Senso.


#2 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - Dans le lit

The name Lautrec is sufficient to imagine Paris at the end of the ‘800 and its bohemian lifestyle.

Dans le lit gives a glimpse of that world and depicts two female figures, probably prostitutes, in bed while kissing. It is part of a series of works, made between 1892 and 1893, focused on the relationship between two women caught in their intimacy. Initially the work ended up on the walls of a brothel on Rue d'Amboise of which the artist was a customer, but now it belongs to a private collector.


#3 Edvard Munch - The Kiss

This painting with dark, Nordic shades is part of Frieze of Life, a group of works that focus on the life-death-love cycle. Preserved in the National Museet for Kunst in Oslo, it portrays two embracing figures, which merge and blend into one another, losing their identity. It's a melancholic mirror of the relationship between a man and a woman caught between desire and fear of love.


#4 Gustav Klimt - Der Kuss

The ecstasy of love. A man and a woman that become one with each other and with the universe, abandoning themselves to each other.

If it is almost certain that the male protagonist is Klimt himself, the female one remains uncertain. The most reliable possibilities are his companion Emilie Flöge, Red Hilda, the artist's favourite model or an unknown young girl.

Part of Klimt's Golden Age and the Viennese secessionist movement (the Austrian art nouveau) Der Kuss is an iconic work, known throughout the world, revived in all sorts of gadgets and parodied by many.


#5 Marc Chagall - L'anniversaire

Chagall painted it in 1915, the day of his birthday. It represents two young figures, the artist and his first wife Bella Rosenfeld, both suspended in the air, who meet for a kiss. It's about the lightheartedness and feeling of invincibility love gives.

You can admire it at the MoMa in New York.


 #6 Giorgio de Chirico - Hector and Andromache

If the figure of the dummy, man-contemporary automaton symbol, recurring in the work of De Chirico, is inspired by a character in a play by Alberto Savinio, this painting is a metaphysical reading of the Homeric myth. In particular, it relates to an episode of the Iliad: Hector and Andromache before the Trojan hero faces Achille in a duel. The tragedy of the scene is due to the awareness of Hector to go in against a certain death amplified by the fact that the protagonists are missing the upper limbs, obstacle to their desire for contact.


#7 René Magritte - The Lovers

It's a masterpiece of surrealism: two people with their faces covered by a white cloth kiss. Dissertation on visible and invisible? Inability to communicate? Love denied, mutilated, with private protagonists of their individuality? Or reference to Magritte's mother who committed suicide and ended up with a cloth on her face?

The artist deliberately leaves the doubt.


#8 Pablo Picasso - Le Baiser

The theme of the kiss in the works of Picasso is recurrent. Erotic, blue period, cubist, in shades of gray or coloured.


#9 Roy Lichtenstein - Kiss V

Kisses, hugs and tears in pop art style. Lichtenstein paints with his famous Ben-Day dots different versions of Kiss, his first comic strip, which gives him instant fame.

Kiss II, made in 1962, was sold in 1990 for $ 6 millions.


#10 Banksy - The Kissing Coppers

2004. In Brighton, on a wall next to Prince of Albert pub, the graffiti of two policemen kissing appears.

The author is Banksy, acclaimed and mysterious street artist that with this simple, but effective image denounces homophobia and ridicules the authority. In 2008, due to the damage on the original, it has been replaced by a facsimile.