A New Year’s Kiss

In honor of the coming weekend’s festivities, which for some will mean a kiss at midnight, let’s look at works from LACMA’s collection that illustrate this intimate act. This simple but complex action communicates an emotion that transcends all barriers—continent, race, gender, time—and continues to inspire artists to capture it in their work.

Edvard Munch, perhaps best known for The Scream, depicts the blossoming of love in this woodcut piece, in which a couple shares a tender and passionate embrace, their bodies blending together toward the bottom of the work.

Edvard Munch (Norway, Løten, 1863–1944), The Kiss, 1905, Los Angeles County Fund

In this engraving by artist Noel Le Mire, which was part of a suite of plates made for the book Collection complète des oeuvres de J. J. Rousseau, a woman grants a first kiss to her lover (who looks slightly taken aback).

Noel Le Mire (France, Rouen, 1724–1801), The First Kiss of Love, 1773, Gift of Mrs. Mary B. Regan

Because kissing is not just reserved for intimate moments between lovers, artists have recreated other examples of the loving gesture. Shown on this Greek bottle circa 360–350 B.C., a mother and child kiss and engage in a mutual embrace.  The mother is the love goddess Aphrodite and the son is the eternally boyish god Eros. You can read more about this piece in our Collections Online.

CA Painter (attributed to the) (Greece), Bottle with Aphrodite and Eros between Two Women and a Servant Girl, circa 360-350 B.C., William Randolph Hearst Collection

This ivory Japanese netsuke from the 18th century shows a pair of geese kissing and is only about two inches tall.

Japan, Kissing Geese, 18th century, Raymond and Frances Bushell Collection

And I do love this print by Austrian artist Hochenleiter. It is so comical and there is such movement to it, as if the artist captured it right when the man on the left grabbed the man on the right and pulled them together.

Hochenleiter (Austria), The Kiss, Gift of Mrs. Irene Salinger in memory of her father, Adolph Stern

Alex Capriotti

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