With Valentine’s Day approaching,
it seems fitting to share a collection of classic paintings of lovers in passionate embraces.
“A man had given all other bliss and all his worldly worth for this,
to waste his whole heart in one kiss upon her perfect lips.”
~Lord Alfred Tennyson
“A Kiss Under the Parasol” by Ludek Marold
Ludek Alois Marold (1865-1898) was born in Prague. His father, an Army Lieutenant who was killed the year after his birth during the Austro-Prussian War, was not married to his mother. Scant is known of Marold’s youth other than his mother dying when he was six years old. In 1881, at the age of 16, Marold began his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in his native Prague, but was soon expelled for indiscipline. He transferred to the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich, where he remained for five years. According to his later manuscript autobiography, all he learned in Munich was how to drink decent beer! Nevertheless, while in Germany he joined an association of Czech artists and began providing illustrations for periodicals. In 1887, he returned to Prague to continue his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. For about eight years he studied art in Paris, the recipient of a state scholarship, returning to Prague in 1897.
The bulk of his work was in illustrations for periodicals, books, and posters. However, he is best known for a panorama depicting the Battle of Lipany, the largest painting in the Czech Republic which currently has its own pavilion at the Výstavište exhibition grounds. His paintings in oil on canvas depict an array of subject matters, many street scenes and people of his native Prague. The painting above — “A Kiss Under the Parasol” or simply “The Kiss” — was an oil on paperboard completed ca.1890.
“How did it happen that their lips came together?
How does it happen that birds sing,
that snow melts, that the rose unfolds,
that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees
on the quivering summit of the hill?
A kiss, and all was said.”
~Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
“The Kiss” by Carolus-Duran
Charles Émile Auguste Durant (1837-1917), known as Carolus-Duran, was born in Lille, France. Initially training as a sculptor, in 1853 he moved to Paris, changed his name, and entered the society of famous artists. He won the Wicar Prize in 1862, an achievement that enabled him to spend four years studying in Italy and Spain. In 1869, shortly after returning to Paris, he married fellow painter Pauline Croizette. The touching, romantic painting above, dated 1868, is a double-portrait of Carolus-Duran kissing his then-fiancée Pauline.
As for the career of Carolus-Duran, while skilled at landscapes, after 1870 he concentrated on producing portraits of the high society of the Third Republic (1870-1940).
“Soul meets soul on lover’s lips.”
~Percy Bysshe Shelley
“Lovers in a Boat” by Maximilian Pirner
Maximilian Pirner (1853-1924) was a Czech painter. From 1872 to 1874 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, followed by a four year stint at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Never an active part of the artistic community, Pirner preferred teaching at the Prague Academy. The bulk of his artwork is of classical mythology and macabre themes, as well as nudes and romantic scenes.
This painting, dated 1883, is sometimes mis-titled as “Lovers in the Small Boat”. It hangs in the National Galerie in Prague.
“Now a soft kiss –
Aye, by that kiss,
I vow an endless bliss.”
“Paolo and Francesca” by Amos Cassioli
Amos Cassioli (1832-1891) was an Italian painter born in Asciano. He studied at the Sienese Academy of Fine Arts, after which a stipend from Grand Duke Ferdinand IV of Tuscany enabled him to study in Rome. By the end of 1860 he established himself in Florence. Regarded as an excellent portraitist, Cassioli gained fame for his large historic paintings. Between executing frescoes, he painted classical subjects, such as the above painting of doomed lovers Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini from Florentine poet Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy.