Second in line perhaps only to the subject of the meaning of life, Love is represented in art around the globe with resounding presence. Even when artists are making works addressing any number of different particular queries, there is often somehow a through line with the theme of love that diffuses across even unintentionally, as love is a basic human experience to which all creators can attune. As soon as a pencil touches a page, it is almost as though a fundamental human frequency is being expressed, and any artist investigating their inner world finds it inescapable. In even mere attempts to describe what they are observing, let alone sensing, artists have a unique way of highlighting the beauty of the experience of love, in all of its many colors and shades, underlining love’s universality.
Ben Shahn – Spring, offset lithograph 1988
Ben Shahn and Marc Chagall, known for their abilities to touch the emotions with great sensitivity, offer us images of couples exchanging gazes, a focus which celebrates the electric feeling that passes between lovers— especially through the so-called windows to the soul, the eyes. Shahn’s Spring and Chagall’s Birthday conjure the feelings effortlessly.
Marc Chagall – Birthday, offset lithograph 1986
Erté shows us that love can come in many forms, each with their own characteristic and individualized artistic brilliance. It is easy to get lost in the respective passions he is describing, with Erté’s Kiss of Fire.
Erté – Kiss of Fire, offset lithograph 1994
Roy Lichtenstein and Marisol dramatize the magic of a kiss, though perhaps such an expression needs no dramatizing— it is possible that these pieces are simply accurate representations of this fiery activity that is as old as time, with Lichtenstein’s Kiss II and Marisol’s Blackbird Love cutting right to the chase.
Roy Lichtenstein – Kiss II, offset lithograph 2012 Marisol – Blackbird Love, stone lithograph 1980, SIGNED
"In even mere attempts to describe what they are observing, let alone sensing, artists have a unique way of highlighting the beauty of the experience of love, in all of its many colors and shades, underlining love’s universality."
Robert Indiana holds the podium for what is probably the most widely embraced and everlasting image related to love, with his infamous typography. Love from Multiples is a rare black and white original silkscreen produced by Indiana in 1969, and in Ahava (The Hebrew Love) he points out that love is the same no matter what language you speak.
Robert Indiana – Love from Multiples, silkscreen 1968 | Ahava (The Hebrew Love), silkscreen 1997
Niki de Saint Phalle and Pietro Spica both similarly meander through the various inexplicable joys whilst feeling in love, a pleasure that allows an altogether upbeat, almost weightless type of perspective on the world. Everything seems suddenly funny and full of sunshine, and maybe it’s because it is— it’s hard not to commune with You Are My Love Forever and Ever and Love in Milan.
Niki de Saint Phalle – You Are My Love Forever and Ever, offset lithograph 2016
Pietro Spica – Love in Milan, offset lithograph 2011
And Gerhard Richter’s adept photorealism combined with a swimming and extravagant composition lead us down a highly charged romantic pathway, creating a sensual and intoxicating atmosphere to accompany his Lovers in the Forest.
Gerhard Richter – Lovers in the Forest, offset lithograph 1995
With upcoming Valentine’s Day putting love on the mind, it is easy to tap into this omnipresent human emotion within which everybody finds common ground. Whether creating art or appreciating it, love is a theme with the power to warm everybody’s hearts. The history of art shows it clearly— without love, what would artists paint about?