On a day celebrating love, here are some of the most iconic artworks that depict its many forms

Home » On a day celebrating love, here are some of the most iconic artworks that depict its many forms

For Valentine’s Day, Abir Pothi compiles some artworks from around the globe and India, that manifest love in its varied, many, fascinating forms

Probably the first thing that comes to mind when one speaks of a romantic artwork is The Kiss (Der Kuss in German) painted between 1907 and 1908 by Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. The oil-on-canvas has added gold leaf, silver and platinum, and was made during what scholars call the height of Klimt’s “Golden Period”. It depicts a couple embracing each other, their bodies entwined in elaborate beautiful robes, bathed in sunshine-kissed hues of golden and yellow.


A captivating artwork made by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in 1892, In Bed: The Kiss features two women caught up in a passionate moment. It depicts tender love shared by the couple, as though they were fearful of being separated from each other. In fact, the artist considers this painting as the epitome of pleasurable and sensual delight.


Although the title veritably indicates love, Les Amants, painted by renowned Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte in 1928, perhaps indicates the darker side of love, bringing in themes of secrecy and alienation, as two shrouded figures attempt to kiss.


Pierre Auguste Renoir’s wife, Aline Charigot, was the model for the woman depicted in this 1883 oil on canvas painting Dance in the Country. The dancing couple in the scene is shown with a messy table behind them, while the man’s hat seems to have been dropped on the floor beside them. These small touches create the impression that the couple is completely lost in the music and one another.


Said to have been painted in the year 1898 by iconic Indian painter Raja Ravi Verma, Shakuntala speaks of yearning. The eponymous character is from the Mahabharata, and pretending to remove a thorn from her foot, while actually looking for her husband/lover, Dushyantha, while her friends call her bluff. Art historian Tapati Guha Thakurta wrote: “The twist and turn of head and body draws the viewer into the narrative.”


Art maestro Abanindranath Tagore is said to have created Magical love: Bengal Fairy Tales in 1920. It depicts two women in a fairy-tale image, appearing to be amongst the clouds and the moon, gently holding on to one another. Their expressions are calm and the aura is magical.


Bhupen Khakhar’s Two Men In Benares (1982) was first shown in 1986 and shocked audiences and critics in Mumbai’s art circles alike. The painting depicted two naked men locked in an embrace, with the holy city of Varanasi referenced beside them. It is a standout moment for the LGBT community coming into its own in the Indian art world.