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Look across the centuries at how artists have explored the enduring themes of love, courtship, marriage and sexual desire.
“You have given me a new dimension to appreciating art”
Whether in work by Brancusi, Magritte, Rodin, Klimt, or in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photograph of a sailor on V‐J Day in Times Square, the kiss is a powerful motif in art, but it isn’t always what it appears.
Medieval texts, seventeenth century Dutch, French rococo, and even academic paintings such as Adolphe‐William Bouguereau’s The Proposal all explored the rituals of courtship.
What do depictions of betrothals and weddings tell us about their respective societies? Through works such as Pieter Brueghel the younger’s Wedding Dance in A Barn, Laurits Tuxen’s A Royal Wedding, and John Lewis Krimmel’s The Country Wedding, discover a range of symbols.
Explore the dynamics of artist couples such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe; Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock; Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin; Man Ray and Lee Miller;Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, and others.
Hogarth’s Marriage a la Mode, the paintings and pastels of Paula Rego (subject of a 2021 retrospective at Tate Britain), the Victorian mistresses depicted by Holman Hunt, Augustus Leopold Egg’s triptych Past and Present, all speculate on the darker side of marriage.
In nineteenth century Paris, the top courtesans acquired mythical reputations and celebrity status. Discover how they inspired or commissioned artists, much like their predecessors in other eras.
From Durer’s witches, Aubrey Beardsley’s femmes fatales (on display in an exhibition at Tate Britain in Spring 2020), to contemporary works by Alexis Hunter and others, female sexuality has often been portrayed as a dangerous force.
Is a convincing language of desire for the male nude? Examine masterpieces like Michelangelo’s David, Thomas Eakins’ young men, Caillebotte’s bathers, and others.
Fictional lovers like Orpheus and Eurydice, Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde have all been represented in artworks which reveal as much about the artist’s era as the original story.
Whether in the harems of Ingres, Delacroix or Gérome, in Gauguin’s Tahiti women, or Mapplethorpe’s nudes, the black body has been made the subject of Western artists’ fantasies.