Depictions of Love


Today is Valentine’s Day. Unlike many, I like Valentine’s Day. It’s a day celebrating love – not only romantic love, I think, but also friendship. People celebrate by being together. You could say this about most other holidays, but on Valentine’s Day in particular, you celebrate together for the sole reason that you enjoy and value each other.

In preparation for this blogpost, I was thinking about ways we celebrate love. People go out to dinner, they give each other presents, etc. But love is a complicated concept. It’s hard to define, and communicate. Yet humans, as they do most things, constantly try to understand it and frame it for others. We see this in art. Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss (1908) ornately depicts a passionate expression of love. The two figures, tied by their everlasting kiss, exist outside of the normal world, in one seemingly more celestial. Klimt paints a feeling recognizable by most: a love so strong the world seems to disappear into beauty.


Auguste Rodin’s work of the same name (1904) is a sculpture. Two passionate lovers embrace, detached from the world around them. The texture of their bodies is smooth, while they sit on a rock with a rougher, dirtier surface. Love is less a presentation of a material object to another person, but an emotional connection that overpowers the physical world around it. We see this especially in René Magritte’s The Lovers (1928). A sadder depiction with darker,
faded colors, Magritte has painted a man and a woman kissing through gray fabric draped over their heads. We can see their clothes, but not their faces. Despite the inherent disconnect between these figures – they cannot see or kiss each other – there is still a link beyond the physical. The figures are drawn together despite their limits. The world around them does not have to disappear here, since the figures cannot even see it. They exist both alone and with
each other, tied together by love.


In these famous depictions, artists highlight both the ties and lines between physical and emotional connection. They portray love as something that exists beyond human perception, as their images are not every day scenes. From a world of gold to covered heads, these figures’ lives are somehow altered by their love for each other. Yet there is more to discover. Love can be portrayed in multiple ways, whether imaginable or not.

- Isabella, HSAC Board

Harvard Student Art Show