The Art of The Kiss - Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso and Others Did It

A personal exchange of feelings between two individuals, the kiss can be a polite greeting, a sign of respect, or an expression of caring concern.

It can also express sensual love, or even be a sign of deceitful betrayal.

A kiss has many shades and levels of emotion in all of these categories and more.

Ancient art has few depictions of the kiss. The act is, after all, often a private matter -- a moment of personal, mutually shared emotion.

Cannova's Cupid and Psyche.
Cannova's Cupid and Psyche. | Source

"A kiss is just a kiss . . . as time goes by."

In this famous sculpture, Venus, the goddess of love and beauty was jealous of a princess worshiped by the people for her beauty. So, naturally, the goddess asked her son Cupid to make the girl fall in love with a horrid monster.

The story, reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, has its ups and downs, but Love finally prevails and everyone lives happily forever after, since Princess Psyche finally gets to be a goddess, too.


Antonio Cannova,(1757-1822) an Italian sculptor, won wide acclaim for his funerary and mythological sculpture. He also lent his neoclassical style to portrait sculptures, including famous ones of people like Napoleon and George Washington.


He often made copies of his successful works. There are at least two more copies of this "Kiss" which is said to have revived Psyche after one of her misfortunes.

Rodin's Kiss

A shocking depiction for the contemporary public.
A shocking depiction for the contemporary public. | Source

Auguste Rodin's naturalistic style was considered quite shocking and crude at the time it was first displayed.

The nude figure had long been an admired and accepted art form. Greek gods and goddesses had often been shown in all their unclothed and idealized glory.

Renaissance sculptors and painters depicted lots of nudes. Even conservative Victorians could accept the classic works as being "artistic". But Rodin's figures were not just nude. They were naked.

They were not like the allegorical, romanticized sculpture of classical times. They were not gods offering a lesson about morality. They looked more like ordinary people, neighbors and co-workers -- but without their clothes. People were shocked and outraged.


His rendition of "The Kiss" was tender and sensitive, quite inoffensive to modern eyes, but to Rodin's contemporary audience, it spoke too much of an underlying sensuality . . . even sexuality, that had no apparent redeeming social value. It wasn't related to a philosophical idea like the statue of Psyche and Cupid, even though they were almost just as naked.

Originally, a similar bronze sculpture by Rodin was meant to represent an unfaithful wife from Dante's Inferno for a larger sculpture of the "Gates of Hell". A 29 inch bronze version was displayed at the The World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in1893 in a secluded spot with limited access since it was considered unsuitable for general public display.

Brancusi's Kiss

Constantin Brancusi, (1876-1957) was a Romanian modernist sculptor whose simplified forms defied centuries of sculptural tradition with his simple but elegant figures.

His work has the straightforward feeling of folk art which may derive from his peasant background, even though he did have classical training and excelled in that area.

His philosophy of expressing "the idea, the essense of things" drove his artistic conceptions.


He had an appreciation of primitive sculpture, was acquainted with many well known arts of his era and he also entered the workshop of Aguste Rodin, whom he admired greatly.

Ever independent, he did not stay with Rodin long, because he felt he was being influenced too much, and wanted to grow his own style. His "The Kiss" gives us only the full frontal contact essentials.


Giotto's Kiss of Judas

The kiss of death.
The kiss of death. | Source

Giotto de Bondone (1266/76--1337) painted what were startlingly realistic scenes for his time. His intuitive use of spatial perspective, and overlapping figures anticipated the Renaissance systems which gave the realistic illusion of depth to a painted work. In Giotto's work we begin to see individual facial expressions and poses-- a break from the iconic traditions of earlier religious art.


His "Kiss of Judas", representing the betrayal of Christ, is unusual in its composition because the expansive golden cloak of Judas almost completely covers the figure of the Savior, as if to hide the despicable act. The soldier in red, to the left of Jesus is so intent on the scene, that he seems not to notice a disciple cutting off his ear.

Francesco Hayez -- "The Kiss"
Francesco Hayez -- "The Kiss" | Source

Franceso Hayez 1791-1882 was a prolific and popular Italian portait painter who also did historical and allegorical subjects.

He had a particular talent for capturing the look and "feel" of rich fabrics which may have been a point in his favor to gain so many wealthy patrons who wished to have themselves portrayed wearing their finest clothing.

His kiss painting done about 1859 shows a couple stealing a moment of passion in a secluded corner of a grand building. The man, wearing a traveling cloak and cap is merely a background for the graceful female figure.
The woman wears a spectacular satin dress which practically glows from within. Every tiny fold and crease of the gown changes the light and makes the garment shimmer like a faceted jewel.


Fragonard -- The Stolen Kiss

Source

Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806)

This French painter worked in several styles, but was most popular for his romantic and whimsical subjects that were popular with aristocrats of the time.

His work appealed to those who favored the frivolous, fashionable and flirty subjects, decorated with flowers and lace.

Soft colors of flesh and fabric spoke to the self-indulgent and pleasure-seeking upper classes in the days before the revolution and his "kissing bandit" captures the playful audacity of Rococo style.

Kiss of the Muse- Cezanne

Source

Considered one of the founding fathers of the impressionist movement, Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) constantly experimented with light, color and movement in his paintings.

This "Kiss of the Muse" sometimes called "The Dream of the Poet", is one of his early works created before he developed the loose and "constructive" groupings of brushstrokes which characterize his more famous works.

It has a strange and somewhat disturbing quality, (perhaps because it looks as if the poet has expired) which makes us glad he moved on from this style.

Munch --The Kiss

Source

Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944) is best known for "The Scream", but he painted several other works with intense emotional overtones.

His version of "The Kiss by the Window" depicts two lovers who are so much into each other that their faces dissolve into one indistinguishable mass.

The original sketch for the work shows the lovers unclothed, and he finished more than one version.

In this one, they seem slightly off balance, but they anchor one another in their passionate unity. Though we cannot discern their expressions, we can recognize their undeniable commitment to the moment.

Cassat -- Maternal Kiss

Only Mom can kiss tears away.
Only Mom can kiss tears away. | Source

Mary Stevenson Cassat (1844-1926), was an American artist who closely associated with Edgar Degas and other impressionists.

She came from a wealthy family who did not think much of her desire to become a serious artist. At the time, it was perfectly acceptable for cultivated women to paint pictures, but NOT to make a career of it.

Her teachers and fellow art students, immersed in strict academic tradition of the era, didn't take her seriously either, simply because she was female. She decided to study on her own.


Going through a long period of trying various subjects, styles and strategies, she finally attained some recognition in her later life for her work in the subject area of "mother and child".


It was a theme she approached with great sensitivity, while avoiding the overly-sweet sentimentality that is sometimes associated with the genre.


She often depicts the quiet moments such as this "Maternal Kiss" which reassures a beautiful child who may have experienced a childlike episode of distress.


Picasso -- The Kiss (detail)

Pablo Picasso did many cubist interpretations of "The Kiss". One of them, painted a day before his 88th birthday, was sold for 15.5 million dollars in a 2008 Sotheby's auction in New York.


The version shown here (1969) is slightly different than the large one done in shades of black and white. Some people may say "a kiss is just as kiss", but the auctioned painting, said to represent the artist and his wife Jacqueline, sold for almost seventeen and a half million total, with the buyer's premium. The proceeds of the sale benefited the Nasher Sulpture Center.

More kisses from the world of art.

As subject in artistic renditions, the kiss can be tender, playful, powerful or lustful.

Every kiss has it's own story, and sends a message given and received with different levels of meaning.

Which is your favorite of these? Or do you have another favorite "kiss"?

[Check Elena's "The Kiss" for a poetic exploration of the subject. Click here.]

More by this Author


24 comments

Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 7 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Wonderful hub :) I have to say of all the illustrations here I prefer Rodin's...


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I think I do, too. Or the Mary Cassatt I'm not really crazy about any of them. Maybe it just seems a little voueristic to be peeking at them, or maybe it is just a really difficult subject to depict.

I appreciate your comment, knowing you are an at history person.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

A fine treatment here, Rochelle, and you have some of my favorites up there. I am a HUGE fan of Rodin and I love Fragonard too. Gonna have to look into Hayez, that tiny image up there has potential to open up a whole bunch of great stuff. Nice work. I kept waiting for the Kiss of Death section though. Does that make me twisted? lol. Much got close, I suppose. :)


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Shades breath-- good to see you. I don't know what makes you twisted. I have wondered.

The Judas one might be the 'kiss of death'.


Chuck profile image

Chuck 7 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

Wonderful pictures of both the paintings and the sculptures. You obviously know your art and did a great job of presenting and describing it. I had seen a a few of these pictures in gallaries but I will now look at them in an entirely new light.


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I'm not much of an art person, so don't feel like I can make an intelligent contribution that way but you've educated me some, Rochelle.

I can never tell what parts of a Picasso are doing what! They're a tad fragmented. I'd like a muse to give me a creative kiss on the forehead, though.

Thanks for exposing me to some culture, Rochelle!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you Chuck. I figure it was time to use a little of something I learned as an Art History major-- but I realize there is soooo much I don't know, barely scratched the surface with what I learned in school.

I appreciate your comment, Shirley. The one thing I learned in art history classes was that it covers "everything". It was good background for an elementary teacher because it  involves, history, culture, science, politics, geography, education etc etc. Art reflects everything that goes on in society and reflects people's thoughts about all of it.

 


Melody Lagrimas profile image

Melody Lagrimas 7 years ago from Philippines

Very interesting. I love Fragonard's stolen kiss as well as Cassat's maternal kiss.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks for commenting, Melody.


shibashake profile image

shibashake 7 years ago

What an information rich hub Rochelle. I thought it was interesting that originally it was acceptable to depict Gods in the nude, but not regular people.

Is that because regular people are seen as less perfect and therefore unworthy of such depiction? Or perhaps that people were embarrassed by their own sexuality and it was only acceptable when depicted by something other than themselves?

I also found it interesting that all the sculptures depict figures in the nude, whereas the paintings do not.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Classical nude sculptures have been around for a long time.

I think one of the differences-- like Rodin-- he was not telling an allegorical story or representing a philosophical ideal. I mean who would look at nude people unless it represented some noble ideal or taught us something about high ideals? 

I am sure there are also some nude kissers in painting, as well, but that is an interesting observation.


fiona_33 profile image

fiona_33 6 years ago from UK

Terrifc hub with wonderful pictures. There are few things as beautiful as a kiss.


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid

Rochelle, here I am! I ought to link this one to mine, too, indeed! They are very pretty sister hubs! You could see in mine that I favor Rodin, but I have to say I've a very (VERY!) special place in my heart for "The Stolen Kiss". Kudos to this one!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks, Elena. The various interpretations are very diverse, aren't they. I added a link to your hub. Thanks for the lovely comment.


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid

Hi Rochelle! I finally got around to linking you, sorry about the tremendous delay, but better late than never, they do say!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country Author

No problem. I appreciate the link. "Besos."


markeliot@activ8.net.au 5 years ago

love it


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

thanx


MissJamieD profile image

MissJamieD 3 years ago from Minnes-O-ta

I personally love Rodin's kiss. I must be honest I know very little about the truth behind art. I love to look at an artists work. I'm not educated on the artists themselves or their pieces and the mediums used, but I really enjoy art on the eyes. I enjoy Rodin's kiss because it seems normal and sensual. I'm sure we've all been in similar poses at least once in our lives. At least I'm hoping that most of us have experienced real sensuality and happiness, even for a moment, with someone we are attracted to. To me, it looks like the couple in the statue are probably in love. Their body language, where his hand is placed on her hip. Like I said, I'm not an expert, but I love this statue, it's beautiful.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country Author

After its initial rejection by the public (it was still the Victorian era) , Rodin's work-- especially this one-- has become very popular and iconic over the years.


idigwebsites profile image

idigwebsites 3 years ago from United States

Aaawwww... I like the maternal kiss. I'm not a mom yet, but it reminds me of myself kissing my baby niece's wet cheeks as she was crying. Thanks for sharing your article. Up, etc., and sharing. :)


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks for your comment, idigwebsites. I think a lot of women pick that as a favorite. We understand the importance of that kiss.


amiebutchko profile image

amiebutchko 3 years ago from Warwick, NY

What an interesting and compelling topic, Rochelle... the kiss! You are right - it has appeared so often in art history and can express so many different types of loves and betrayals; all ageless and relatable. I especially love the painting of Judas and Jesus as well as the mother and child kiss and the sublime emotion it conveys. Definitely worthy of pondering - thank you for this journey through such a thought provoking subject. You brought new light to old masterpieces for me this morning!


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you for commenting, amiebutchko. I enjoyed doing this hub and am glad that many people found it interesting.

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