“A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.” – Ingrid Bergman
“Where soul meets soul on lover’s lips,” as put by prolific poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a kiss is a crescendo of passion- nothing is as pure and powerful. From fictitious fairytales to romantic realism, the connection that is carried from one person’s lips to another can very much be kinetic. It enchants and envelops, enigmatically enamoring in evanescence. These magical moments have been memorialized in artwork and paintings in a profuse merging together of passion and craft.
With the elevation of the hormone oxytocin in the body, stress levels are thus reduced and connectivity is increased between the kissing party. A cathartic kaleidoscope of feeling felt universally throughout western cultures, time honored artists have explored the sensualsublime of the kiss- from sculptures and surrealism to sanctifying silhouettes. The following internationally found works of art are unified by an intimate, intoxicating moment that is scientifically known to heighten the sense of touch, smell, or taste.
Il Bacio by Francesco Hayez, 1859 This Italian masterpiece is emblematic of Italian Romanticism and the spirit of the Risorgimento. It is an emotive illustration of an intense moment of fleeting passion between a couple from the Middle Ages. As the girl in the painting leans back with her arm gripping her lover’s shoulder, the man gently holds her face and bends his leg in support of her body. While the faces in the painting are obscured, the centering of the couple refocuses the attention to the passionate kiss.
The Kiss by Edvard Munch, 1897 Better known for his painting “The Scream,” Munch captures the indistinguishable warm embrace of two people. This piece is a part of the Norwegian symbolist artist’s Frieze of Life, a depiction of the relationships between men and women. The merging of the two faces represents a symbolic unification of lovers in mind, body, and spirit.
The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, 1908-09 Created during Klimt’s “Golden Period,” this Art Nouveau inspired, erotic piece explores the close embrace of two lovers gilded in ornamentation. The two bodies are intensely intertwined as though forming into one unified body.
Rayography (The Kiss) by Man Ray, 1922 Rayography, or the process by which objects are laid onto photosensitive paper and exposed to light. This photogram was created was created using two darkroom trays, by first transferring a silhouette of a pair of hands onto photogenic paper and repeating the process with a pair of heads.
The Lovers by René Magritte, 1928 Magritte’s iconic rendering of the two masked lovers in the painting is profoundly mystifying. The shrouds that are conspicuously covering their faces and separating the lovers are a recurring image in her works, traced back to a trauma in his early childhood: his mother drowned, with her nightgown veiled over her face. While the meaning remains enigmatic—considered by critics to be symbolic of true love, the blindness of love, prohibited love, or the uncertainty of love—Magritte stepped away from a single concrete meaning for his surrealist compositions.