Roses Are Red: Valentine’s Artworks

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner; with this in mind I thought to write a post on some love inspired artworks which capture the spirit of what Saint Valentine’s romantic holiday is all about.

When thinking about love and art, the first work one might primarily think of is John Everett Millais’s Ophelia (1851-52). Though the Pre-Raphaelite painting is known for its tragic scene depicting Ophelia’s death in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the work can still be found to be desperately romantic. Ophelia is floating amongst the green weeds and wild flowers of the stream, composed in an immortal manner. She is morbidly still; we know she has drowned herself after being driven mad by the grim situation between her lover, Hamlet, and her own father. Despite the hopeless circumstances, the painting arouses feelings of ardour and love – painted in such a delicate, ornamental style has allowed for a hauntingly beautiful work of art to remain remembered in the contemporary.

Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss (1908-09) is much less tragic than Ophelia; instead it is a vivid celebration of affection depicting a love-locked couple sharing an intimate moment. The decadent Art Nouveau style and lavishing layers of gold leaf demonstrate a sense of extravagance and indulgence – isn’t that what a lot of people believe Valentine’s Day to be about? The decorative flowers pronounce a base for the lovers and introduce an organic element to the painting, perhaps suggesting the couple are still tied to earth in some way, despite they’re heavenly embrace.

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Keeping to a chronological order, the next work which comes to light in view of the romantic holiday, is Rene Magritte’s The Lovers II (1928). Some might find Magritte’s surrealist work a tad creepy because the lover’s faces are covered and are therefore unable to complete their intimate embrace. This painting documents feelings of frustrated and perhaps supressed desires something dark and twisty for those inclined by the exotic – any 50 Shades of Grey fans out there?

I cannot forgo mentioning the well-known painting La Mariée (1950) by the Russian-French artist Marc Chagall. For those of you who have seen Notting Hill, you will know that this painting is featured in throughout the film. If it’s not already romantic enough as a gift from Anna Scott to William Thacker (“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her…”), the depicted scene within the painting is divinely dreamy. A goat serenading a floating veiled woman carrying flowers, what could be more romantic than that!

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Finally, I wanted to consider some soft-centred heart shape works which would make the perfect Valentine’s card or gift. Andy Warhol’s Four Hearts ((1981) silk screen print is simple and sweet. The baby pink overlay corresponding between both hearts and background stirs childhood Valentine’s memories to mind – secret forget-me-not’s hidden in school desks and lockers. Another favourite wrapped up in gold is Jeff Koons’ Hanging Heart (Gold & Magenta) (1994-2006). Koons’ inflatable-made-permanent sculpture could be a gift in itself, shiny and gold with a big pink ribbon on top, what more could a girl want on Valentine’s Day?

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