Love has been a primary source of inspiration across so many different types of art; Music, poetry, and of course, visual art. The creative expression of this complex and all-encompassing emotion has led to many popular pieces, such as Klimt’s The Kiss or Magritte’s The Lovers.

However, there are so many pieces that haven’t made it to the spotlight but truly deserve more recognition. With Valentine’s Day approaching, discover some paintings that depict love from platonic to passionate.

Vignette (The Kiss), Kerry James Marshall, 2018

You may know Klimt’s The Kiss, or even Rodin, Edvard Munch or Francesco Hayez’s works by the same name. But do you know Kerry James Marshall’s?

This beautiful art piece represents an affectionate black couple embracing. The bright colours used as well as the flowers, tint the scene with happiness.

In an interview, Kerry James Marshall explains why this celebration of black joy and love is crucial: “The historical narrative of Black people in the United States is associated almost exclusively with a kind of trauma. So I decided I would make pictures that… represent a relationship between Black people that demonstrated a certain kind of affection for each other.”

Spooning Couple, Ron Mueck, 2005

Love it or hate it, this sculpture by Ron Mueck does not leave you indifferent. A man and a woman lay half naked against one another in a fetal position, or “spooning”.

What looks like an intimate, vulnerable and sweet embrace at first glance, transforms into something much more complex as you observe the scene. The cold expressions on their faces tell an entirely different story. So close, but so far; Ron Mueck’s sculpture captures a darker side to love, and seems to tell the tale of a relationship gone wrong, and the grief associated with that change.

Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene, Simeon Solomon, 1864

This painting pictures Sappho lovingly embracing her fellow poet Erinna, in a garden at Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. This historical painting is a manifesto to sapphic love, queer desire, and its undeniable presence throughout history. Simeon Solomon, its painter, was arrested for same-sex relationships, and many view Sappho and Erinna as a way for him to express his own homosexuality.

A Gathering of Friends, Eustache Le Sueur, 1640-1642

A Gathering of Friends is a testament to the joy of platonic love. The commissioner of the painting asked Eustache Le Sueur to depict his friends, each with a symbol related to their hobby or line of work. These simple details show the care that was put in this piece, and how meaningful friendships can be.

The expression of love in art should highlight the emotion in all its multitudes. Emphasis has generally been placed on traditional romantic love, or artists and characters that often lack in diversity.

At Palbric, we truly believe that art should be inclusive, and that all artists with positive values should have a chance to showcase their work. We hope you enjoyed these pieces on the topic of love, and wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Looking for more love-related paintings? Check out Milos Reindl’s The Other Sex collection.

Written by Nina Surugue