Art History’s Greatest Kisses?

The Art of Kissing

The word “KISS” comes from the Old English word “cyssan,” No one really knows the origin of “cyssan”, but it’s thought that it might represent the sound people make when they kiss.


Are you shaken, are you stirred

By a whisper of love,

Spellbound to a word

Does Time cease to move,

Till her calm grey eye

Expands to a sky

And the clouds of her hair

Like storms go by?

 Then the lips that you have kissed

Turn to frost and fire,

And a white-steaming mist

Obscures desire:

So back to their birth

Fade water, air, earth,

And the First Power moves

Over void and dearth.

 Is that Love? no, but Death,

A passion, a shout,

The deep in-breath,

The breath roaring out,

And once that is flown,

You must lie alone,

Without hope, without life,

Poor flesh, sad bone.


JOHN W. MILLS, British Sculptor
Bronze edition

Throughout the history of Art, we can recall memories of master artists capturing the beautiful expression of THE KISS.

As a global organisation, we want to study these forms in more detail, to understand the thoughts and influences they may have had on the artists in expressing their deep affection for the subject?

We welcome your comments and contribution to the story of The Art of KISSES, or if you, as an artist, were influenced to use it as a subject for your art?


Khajuraho Temple Kisses

The Story of Life & Love (INDIA)
Khajuraho Temples are among the most beautiful medieval monuments in the country. These temples were built by the Chandella ruler between AD 900 and 1130, and it was the golden period of the Chandella rulers. It is presumed that every Chandella ruler built at least one temple in his lifetime. So all Khajuraho Temples were not constructed by any single Chandella ruler. Still, the Temple building was a tradition of Chandella rulers followed by almost all rulers of the Chandella dynasty. Khajuraho is known for its ornate temples, spectacular pieces of human imagination, artistic creativity, magnificent architectural work, and deriving spiritual peace through eroticism.


 Renaissance Kisses  –  Timeless piece

Around 1545, Agnolo Bronzino was commissioned to create a painting which has come to be known as Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time. In it, mother and son appear on the verge of a sexual tryst: Cupid fondles his mother’s breast and kisses her on the lips. Suggestively, Venus’ legs appear to be slightly spread, and her tongue is visible.

Agnolo di Cosimo (Italian November 17, 1503 – November 23, 1572), known as Bronzino. We witness the influence of Bronzino in the famous works by master artists Michelangelo in the sculpture of David and Leonardo da Vinci the painting of Mona Lisa. Oil on panel, 5 ft 1 in x 4 ft 8 3/4 in (In the collection of The London National Gallery of Art)

Mughal Royal lovers.

Mughal Kisses

INDIA [1526-1707]
The artistic school of Mughal India was formed through the transmission of techniques directly and indirectly by master artists of the royal Mughal atelier. After the Death of Akbar, architect of the Mughal empire and active patron of the arts, his son Jahangir (r. 1605–27) ascended to the throne. As a prince, Jahangir had established his own atelier in Allahabad and had strong artistic tastes, preferring a single painter to work on an image rather than the collaborative method of Akbar’s Time.

Neoclassical Kiss Antonio Canova Cupid Kiss2

Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, 1787-1793

Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) was a leading exponent of the neoclassic style, which dominated the arts in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He is internationally famous for his marble sculptures of delicate nudes. He was regarded as the most brilliant sculptor in Europe – he was renowned Working after the excesses of the Baroque style, he carved a niche for himself in the world of Neoclassical sculpture. He was called ‘the supreme minister of beauty’ and a unique and truly divine man’ by his contemporaries.

His masterpiece of mythological love, in which the god Cupid awakens Psyche from unconsciousness, displays his typical elegance and sophistication – a conscious emulation of Greek and Roman examples in the age of the Enlightenment.

Japanese art of kissing5

Edo Japan Kisses

From Poem of the Pillow, 1788
Kitagawa Nebsuyoshi (born 1753,Japan—died Oct. 31, 1806, Edo, Japan—d.) Japanese printmaker and painter who was one of the greatest artists of the ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”) movement; he is known primarily for his masterfully composed portraits of sensuous female beauties.
Eroticism was a fundamental theme of Japanese printmaking of the Edo period, and Utamaro Kitagawa concentrated explicitly on depictions of love and sex in his art. This is one of the more chaste images from his overpowering Poem of the Pillow, a cycle of twelve prints of almost unparalleled sexual intensity. Later Western artists, notably Édouard Manet and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, turned to Japanese examples like this for their frank depictions of lovers and courtesans.


Romanticism Kisses

Francesco Hayez (Italian, 1791-1882),
Il Bacio, 1867.
Oil on canvas.
46 5/8 x 34 7/8 in. (118.4 x 88.6 cm.) Estimate: $700,000-1,000,000. This work is offered in the 19th Century European Art sale on 25 April at Christie’s New York…

Il Bacio is even more passionate still, with the male figure caressing the woman’s face and holding her head back. Another difference from the painting Romeo and Juliet is that Hayez imbues the work with political and social allegory. It can be read as a hymn to freedom and patriotic love, and this depiction became a true icon of Italian painting.
Francesco Hayez was a famous Italian portraitist who also rendered historical and allegorical subjects.


Realistic  Kisses

Dimensions: 1.82 m x 1.12 m x 1.17 m
Owner: Musée Rodin
Location: Private collection
Created: 1882–1889
Media: Marble

Auguste Rodin’s Kiss in white marble of two naked figures embracing and captured in the motion of Kissing.  The naturalistic style was deemed quite outrageous and crude when first displayed. The couple in “The Kiss” is not idealized, classically nude figures; instead, they are naked and openly sexual, although the couple’s lips do not actually meet.

“To any artist, worthy of the name, all in nature is beautiful, because his eyes, fearlessly accepting all exterior truth, read there, as in an open book, all the inner truth.”- Auguste Rodin.

Renoir going in for the kiss3

Impressionism Kisses

Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Period: Impressionism
Created: 1883
Genre: History painting
‘Dance at Bougival’ by Renoir depicts a couple dancing, he seems about to kiss her, and she looks away, her mouth drooping. Renoir’s model was Suzanne Valadon, a famous artist in her own right, who had been a dressmaker before becoming an acrobat and, following a fall, an artists’ model. A muse and lover of Renoir’s, it is thought he depicted her with a drooping mouth as a comment on his feelings regarding women: their role was either domestic or providing inspiration for him.

“Why shouldn’t art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world.” – Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Gustav Klimt The Kiss

Art Nouveau Kisses

Gustav Klimt (1862 -1918) One of his finest pieces working in mixed medium
The Kiss in 1907-8 — undoubtedly his most famous work and now a stalwart of undergraduate bedroom walls everywhere. A couple is depicted in gold leaf and embellished with coloured symbols, and only their faces, hands and feet may be seen. A joyful and exuberant expression of sexual love, Klimt’s The Kiss is also a defining expression of decadence in turn-of-the-century Vienna.

 “Whoever wants to know something about me – as an artist, which alone is significant – they should look attentively at my pictures and seek to recognise what I am and what I want.”- Gustav Klimt.


Abstract Kisses

“My work is aiming at is, above all, realism: I pursue the inner, hidden reality, the very essence of objects in their own intrinsic fundamental nature; this is my only deep preoccupation.”
Constantin Brâncuși (February 19, 1876 – March 16, 1957) was a Romanian sculptor, painter and photographer who made his career in France. Considered a pioneer of modernism. His simplified forms in his sculpture subvert centuries of sculptural tradition, fusing both the influence of his classical training and his peasant background. His philosophy of expressing “the idea, the essence of things” drove his artistic conceptions and his ‘The Kiss’ (1916).

Pablo Picasso Kiss2

Neoclassicism Kisses

Original Title: Le baiser
Date: 1925
Style: Surrealism
Period: Neoclassicist & Surrealist Period …
Genre: genre painting
Media: oil, canvas
Dimensions: 97.7 x 130.5 cm
The tender or violent scenes of kissing couples, portrayed in deep, rich layers of colours, show how much importance sexual love had for the artist.
This Kiss from 1925 shows two heads joined by a single line occupying the entire pictorial space. Picasso does not hesitate to deform the faces to bring them closer together: “Of the two, he makes but one, to express the intimate fusion that takes place during the act of kissing.”
Today Picasso holds the record for World’s most expensive painting – Les Femmes d’Alger (version O)(1955) – Pablo Picasso • Sold at auction in 2015 for $179 million.

“The meaning of LIFE is to find your GIFT, and the purpose of LIFE is to Give It Away” – Pablo Picasso.

Rene Magritte Kiss_Lovers2

Surreal Kisses

“The mind loves the unknown, and it loves images whose meaning is unknown since the mind itself is unknown.”
René François Ghislain Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well-known for many witty and thought-provoking images…

Dimensions: 54 cm x 73 cm
Period: Surrealism…
Location: National Portrait Gallery
Created: 1928
Media: Oil paint
In René Magritte’s ‘Lovers’ (1928), two lovers kiss, wrapped in shrouds. The symbolism here is of love blinded, the cloth separating the pair as the spectre of Death envelops passion. As an interesting aside, Magritte’s mother drowned when he was a child, and her nightgown covered her head when she was found.

 “My painting is visible images which conceal nothing,” he wrote, “they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, ‘What does it mean?’ It does not mean anything because mystery means nothing, either. It is unknowable.”- René Magritte.

Roy Lichtenstein Kiss3

Pop Art period – Kisses

‘The Kiss’ (1962) by American artist Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) amplifies a classic ‘comic book’ Kiss to iconic proportions.
The Kiss was among the first “comic strip” paintings for which Roy Lichtenstein became instantly famous in art circles. He’d always been fascinated by cartoonists’ work and saw parallels between their styles and those of modern “Fine Arts” masters.

 “I’m never drawing the object itself; I’m only drawing a depiction of the object – a kind of crystallised symbol of it.” – Roy Lichtenstein.

Banksy Policemen Kissing3

21st Century Modern Street art Kisses

Banksy, a street artist, captured his version of the Kiss to bring us to the modern day.

Makes Headlines in 2014 Banksy’s Kissing Coppers – taken from a pub wall in Brighton

One of Banksy’s most famous and highly celebrated murals, Kissing Coppers, created in 2004, was carefully removed from the wall of the Prince Albert pub in Brighton and auctioned by Fine Arts Auctions Miami on February 18, 2014, reaching the selling price of $477,000, just under its lowest estimated value of half of million dollars. This life-size, monochromatic stencil graffiti depicting a close relationship between two policemen embracing and sensually kissing each other was acquired by an anonymous buyer. After the auction, the piece continued to create controversy as the information emerged that this mural was heavily vandalised in 2006 and (successfully) restored by the staff working at the bar! The mural was removed and replaced with a replica in 2008 and then shipped off to the US to be sold.

Massive Mural by KobraModern Street Art  Kisses

Eduardo Kobra – Born in São Paulo in 1976. Lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil.
Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra utilizes bright colours and bold lines while staying true to a kaleidoscope theme throughout his art. Repeating squares and triangles allows him to bring to life the famous people he depicts in his images. This chequered pattern, filled with different textures, lines, and shading, builds up to Eduardo Kobra’s final masterpiece, a larger-than-life mural for all to see and marvel at.

The original photo portrayed an American sailor kissing a woman in a white dress in Times Square, New York City, on August 14, 1945. The photograph was published a week later in Life magazine, among many photographs of celebrations around the country that were presented in a twelve-page section called Victory


21st-Century Modern Dance Kisses

JOHN W. MILLS, British Sculptor
Bronze edition LIFE size
Viewing by appointment

contact ICAS – Vilas Fine Art UK.


 The subject derives from the ballet “Romeo and Juliet” by Frederick Ashton. It uses one of the famous ‘Pas des Deux that feature in that ballet and are so typical of choreography of Ashton. He causes the two dancers to melt so that they become like one person whilst retaining their individual grace and sexuality. My work with dancers seeks to convey such feelings without simply illustrating them. The dynamic of the dance and the making of a powerful image using a beautiful subject is a constant challenge to John Mills.

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The last century has seen Movie makers join the trends in capturing the Art of Kissing; these are our Top 5 through the period.

Scarlett 1939 Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh

Gone with the Wind 1939

Epic Civil War drama focuses on the life of petulant southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). Starting with her idyllic on a sprawling plantation, the film traces her survival through the tragic history of the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction and her tangled love affairs with Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).

From here to Eternity 1953 Burt Lancaster and Decorah Kerr

From here to Eternity 1953

At an Army barracks in Hawaii in the days preceding the attack on Pearl Harbour, lone-wolf soldier and boxing champion “Prew” Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) refuses to box, preferring to play the bugle instead. Sargent. Warden (Burt Lancaster) engages in a clandestine affair with the captain’s mistreated wife (Deborah Kerr).

Lady and the Tramp 1955

This Disney animated classic follows a pampered cocker spaniel named Lady (Barbara Luddy) whose comfortable life slips away once her owners have a baby.

Dirty Dancing Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey

Dirty Dancing 1987

Baby (Jennifer Grey) is one listless summer away from the Peace Corps. Hoping to enjoy her youth while it lasts, she’s disappointed when her summer plans deposit her at a sleepy resort in the Catskills with her parents. Patrick Swayze is the leader of the resort’s working-class entertainment staff.

The Titanic

Titanic 1997

84 years later, a 101-year-old woman named Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) tells the story to her granddaughter Lizzy Calvert, Brock Lovett, Lewis Bodine, Bobby Buell and Anatoly Mikailavich on the Keldysh about her life set on April 10th 1912, on a ship called Titanic when young Rose boards the departing ship with the upper-class passengers and her mother, Ruth DeWitt Bukater, and her fiancé, Caledon Hockley. Meanwhile, a drifter and artist named Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his best friend Fabrizio De Rossi win third-class tickets to the ship in a game. And she explains the whole story from departure until the Death of Titanic on its first and last voyage, April 15th, 1912, at 2:20 in the morning.

What are your Top 5 Most memorable films that captured The Art of Kissing?

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