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From first kisses to tragic romances, our collection abounds with love, in all its forms.

Here we’ve selected some of our favorites, including works you can see in the galleries plus hidden treasures from our storerooms. Enjoy classics ranging from Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss and Pablo Picasso’s The Lovers to contemporary photographs and prints portraying family bonds, close friendships, and lovers, of course.

Explore more hidden treasures from our collection, including wintry scenesfood in art, and our spookiest works.

Kissing Booth

Pucker up! Austrian artist Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss isn’t the only artwork to evoke a romantic smooch. French sculptor Auguste Rodin made several works portraying embracing couples. In Rodin’s The Kiss the tangled figures nearly obscure the meeting of their mouths. 

A man and woman embrace and kiss while sitting on a rocky formation in this free-standing bronze sculpture. Both people are nude, and they turn toward each other. In this photograph, to our right, the slender woman reaches her left arm, closer to us, up to wrap around the man’s neck. Her left breast is silhouetted against the man’s muscular chest. The woman’s raised arm covers most of their faces but the man turns his head down to meet hers. The man rests his right hand, closer to us, on her hip and she hooks one leg over his. His knees are angled to our left and he turns his torso toward her. The woman’s left toes brush his foot, just below hers. They sit on a textured, rock-like form. The surface of sculpture has a golden-brown patina, which darkens where the bodies fold and crease. The artist’s name is stamped into the seat, just below the woman’s hip: “RODIN.”

On view: West Building, Ground Floor - Gallery 2
Auguste Rodin, The Kiss (Le Baiser), model 1880-1887, cast c. 1898/1902, bronze, download image

Not on view
Heinrich Aldegrever, Large Wedding Dancers, 1538, engraving, download image

Not on view

Jim Goldberg, The Sugar Daddy’s Motel Room, 1988, printed 1994, gelatin silver print

Young Love

Do you remember your first kiss or school dance? These works embrace the sweet, and sometimes awkward, early romances. Harlem photographer James Van Der Zee’s formal portrait of a tiny bride and groom takes pretend weddings to the next level.

Not on view
James Van Der Zee, Mock Wedding, c. 1930, gelatin silver print

Not on view
American 20th Century, Untitled (Adolescent couple wearing paper crowns at a dance), c. 1970, gelatin silver print

Not on view
Winslow Homer, On the Stile, 1878, watercolor, gouache, and graphite on wove paper, download image

Not on view
Jim Goldberg, Hollywood and Highland (#2), 1986, printed 1994, gelatin silver print

Family Bonds

These works remind us to share the love with our families, whether biological or chosen.

Not on view
Nancy Andrews, Nelita Williams and Barbara Hudson, 1993, gelatin silver print

Not on view

Mary Cassatt, Maternal Caress, 1890-1891, color drypoint and aquatint on laid paper, download image

Not on view
Bessie Potter Vonnoh, The Kiss, 1906, bronze

In François-Hubert Drouais’s self-portrait with his family, the French painter’s daughter gifts her mother a bouquet of flowers, while Drouais reads her a poem, or possibly a love letter.

A woman sitting in an upholstered chair near a vanity table touches the hair of the little girl leaning against her lap to our left, as a man leans onto the back of her chair to our right in this vertical portrait painting. The people all have pale skin, flushed cheeks, and their pale gray hair is pulled back and curled. Their pink lips curve in slight smiles, and light glinting off of much of the fabric suggests they wear satin or silk. The woman’s body is angled to our left, toward the girl, but she turns her head back to look up over her other shoulder with gray eyes. A voluminous, cream-white cloth drapes over her shoulders and lap, over a bodice covered in lilac-purple bows and ribbons. Her gold satin skirt falls around her feet. The little girl leans onto one arm on the woman’s lap as she turns to look at us with pale blue eyes. The girl’s forget-me-not-blue dress has a fitted bodice, elbow-length sleeves over white cuffs, a long, full skirt, and white ruffles along the collar. The woman holds blue flowers in the girl’s hair, and the girl’s forearm wraps around a bundle of pink and red flowers in the woman’s lap. The chair is upholstered in teal blue and has a gold frame and a row of gold nail heads along the padded back and arm. The man leans one forearm against the back of the chair as he looks down at the girl. In that hand, he holds a folded piece of paper with writing. He wears a loose jacket decorated with gold pagodas, pink and yellow flowers, and spruce-green leaves against a brown background. Foamy white lace falls back from his cuffs and hangs down from the high white collar of his undershirt. He wears brick-red, knee-length britches, white stockings, and black shoes with silver buckles. His other hand is planted against his hip, and one ankle is crossed in front of the other. A vanity draped with a white cloth sits on the far side of the woman and girl, along the left edge of the painting. It holds gold and glass vessels and boxes, and a rounded mirror at the back is draped with dark pink cloth. The lower half of a window behind the vanity is covered by a white cloth, and the panes continue beyond the top of the canvas. A teal-blue curtain hangs along the right edge of the window, at the corner of the room. A clock with a gold case of swirling, carved designs hangs high on the peanut-brown wall behind the man. On the floor near the chair, blue and white striped tissue paper, a rose-pink ribbon, and a strand of pearls drape over the edges of an open box. Writing along the front edge of the lid of the box reads, “Fs. Drouais. Ce 1 avril. 1756.” A pink rose lies near the girl’s feet, to our left.

Not on view
François-Hubert Drouais, Family Portrait, 1756, oil on canvas, download image

Not on view
James Van Der Zee, Portrait of a Family, c. 1940, gelatin silver print

Not on view
Charles A. Nast, Detroit Photographic Company, Ute Chief Severo and Family, c. 1885, published 1900, photo-chromolithograph

“Palentine’s” Day

Celebrate the one you love like a sibling, whether it be by enjoying an ice cream cone like friends in American artist Isabel Bishop’s drawing below or just spending some time together as in Sisters by French impressionist painter Berthe Morisot.

Shown from the lap up, two women with pale skin and dark hair pulled up and back, wearing white dresses with baby-blue polka dots, sit on a couch in this horizontal portrait painting. Both women have straight, dark brows, delicate noses, smooth skin, and their small, rose-pink mouths are closed. Wispy bangs brush their foreheads, and their hair is piled high with long ringlets falling down their backs. Both wear black ribbons like chokers around their necks. Their dresses have high necks with ruffles along the necklines, ruffles at the wrists, and are gathered under the bust. They sit angled in toward each other. The woman on our left has black hair, and she looks down and to our right with dark eyes. She wears a gold ring with a dark, oval stone on one hand resting in her lap. The other woman has chestnut-brown hair and looks down and off to our left with ice-blue eyes. She holds an open fan in her hands in her lap. The fabric on the couch has vertical white and lilac-purple stripes, and is overlaid with a pattern of pink flowers and green leaves. A framed picture hanging on the bone-white wall behind the women shows an arched painting against a sky-blue background. A few spiky leaves from a houseplant are cut off by the left edge of the painting. The portrait is loosely painted throughout, especially in the couch and background. The artist signed the painting in the upper right corner, “Berthe Morisot.”

On view: West Building, Main Floor - Gallery 89
Berthe Morisot, The Sisters, 1869, oil on canvas, download image

Not on view
Isabel Bishop, Friends, 1942, etching in black with pen and black ink on laid paper

On view: East Building, Ground Level - Gallery 103D
Marie Laurencin, In the Park, 1924, oil on canvas

Broken Hearts

Artists like Norwegian painter and printmaker Edvard Munch have illustrated the longing for love, while a 16th-century drawing called “Do Not Eat Your Heart Out” reminds us not to get too sad. The unknown French artist shows a woman using giant forceps to remove a bleeding heart.

Not on view
Edvard Munch, Girl with the Heart (Das Mädchen und das Herz), 1899, woodcut in black, green, and red on Japan paper

Not on view
French early 16th Century, “Do Not Eat Your Heart Out” [fol. 22 recto], c. 1512/1515, pen and brown ink with watercolor on laid paper, download image

Not on view
Gerald Leslie Brockhurst, Le Béguin (The Crush), 1921, etching in black on laid paper

On view: East Building, Mezzanine - Gallery 217A
Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Seated Youth, 1917, composite tinted plaster, download image

Newlyweds

Wedding bells are ringing in James Van Der Zee’s and Leonard Freed’s photographs of brides and grooms. Or in the case of Antoine Watteau’s drawing of a wedding procession, a lute player serenades the couple on their way to say their vows.

Not on view
James Van Der Zee, Wedding Day, Harlem, 1926, printed 1974, gelatin silver print

Not on view
Antoine Watteau, The Wedding Procession, c. 1712, red chalk over red chalk counterproof on laid paper, download image

Not on view
Leonard Freed, Police officer and bride at their wedding, Long Island, New York, 1979, gelatin silver print

Perfect Pairs

Couples are the subject of paintings by Washington, DC–based artist Lois Mailou Jones and French artist Pablo Picasso. 

Shown from the shoulders up, a woman and man, both with brown skin, look at each other in this horizontal portrait painting. Their bodies are angled toward each other and both have black hair, dark eyebrows, and full, coral-red lips. To our left, the woman faces our right in profile. She has a delicate nose and high cheekbones. Her eyes are painted with black lashes over black eyes, without the white of the eye. A gold disk earring hangs from the ear we can see, and she wears white and royal-blue beads in two necklaces. Her hair is combed or styled close to her head, and a swath of brick-red fabric, flecked with golden yellow, wraps around the back of her neck. A scarf with butter-yellow, denim-blue, and red stripes in a plaid pattern is draped across her shoulders, over a rose-pink garment. To our right, the man’s face is angled toward the woman but we see both eyes and the far cheek. His hair is closely cropped and he has a rounded nose, curving brows, and full cheeks. The shadows and folds of his white garment are painted with streaks of teal blue. The background behind the pair is patterned with bands and geometric designs of mustard yellow, scarlet red, and teal, with some stylized leaves in emerald and forest green. The artist signed the work in red paint in the lower right corner, “Lois M. Jones.”

Not on view
Lois Mailou Jones, The Lovers (Somali Friends), 1950, casein on canvas

Shown from the hips up, a woman and a man stand side-by-side in front of a window and curtain in this vertical painting. The people and background are painted with mostly flat areas of vivid color, with their bodies and features outlined in black. The man and woman both have paper-white skin, brown hair, straight noses, and small mouths. They stand facing us so the woman’s shoulder slightly overlaps the man’s. The man’s right arm wraps around the woman to rest on the far side of her neck. She holds his left hand with her left hand, both to our right, and her other arm is tucked into her waist. The woman’s head tilts to our right, toward the man, while her shoulders slope slightly away to our left. She looks off to our right with dark eyes under thin brows. Her white shirt is the same color as her skin. A sea green-cloth drapes over her head and one shoulder, and her skirt is buttercup yellow. The man turns his head to look at the woman. His clothing is coral red. The couple stands in front of a mauve-purple curtain on our right and a window with baby-blue panes set within an ash-gray frame on our left. The artist signed the painting in brown in the lower right, “Picasso 23.”

On view: East Building, Ground Level - Gallery 103B
Pablo Picasso, The Lovers, 1923, oil on linen

Not on view
American 20th Century, “?? I can't tell you why I love you...”, c. 1900-1910, gelatin silver print

Nancy Andrews’s photograph of Gean Harwood and Bruhs Mero is part of a series of portraits of the gay and lesbian community in America in 1980s and 1990s.

Not on view
Nancy Andrews, Gean Harwood and Bruhs Mero, 1993, gelatin silver print

Missed Connections

Sometimes, it’s not meant to be. Italian Renaissance painter Titian’s Venus and Adonis shows the goddess clinging to her love before he leaves for a hunt, never to return. Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens’s Agrippina and Germanicus is an imagined double portrait of the husband and wife. Or could it be a portrait of other star-crossed lovers? Hear scholar Mary Beard’s theory about the painting.

Shown from the shoulders up, a man and woman face our left in profile against a dark background in this vertical portrait painting. The woman is situated closer to us so she overlaps the man, whose profile is shifted to our left. The woman’s eye we can see is brown and she looks ahead from under a gently arched eyebrow. She has a pale skin with faintly blushed cheeks, a straight nose, and her pink lips are closed. Her reddish-gold hair is pulled back into a loose knot at the base of her head, and tendrils fall down her neck. Her hair is braided across the crown of her head, which is encircled with a string of pearls and adorned with a red jewel over her forehead. Gossamer-white fabric wraps around the base of her long neck. The man behind her and to our left has a more tan complexion. He looks ahead with brown eyes under lowered eyebrows. He has a long, bumped nose and his pink lips are closed. He has auburn-brown hair and wears a burgundy-red robe around his shoulders. The pair occupy a shallow space behind a stone ledge that runs along the bottom edge of this composition. The light that illuminates them from the front creates a halo-like effect on the midnight-blue background behind them. The number "19" is painted in the lower left corner.

On view: West Building, Main Floor - Gallery 45
Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Agrippina and Germanicus, c. 1614, oil on panel, download image

On view: West Building, Ground Floor - Gallery 28
Sunil Gupta, Untitled #1, 1988, printed 2020, inkjet print

A seated nude woman reaches for and embraces a partially clothed man as he begins to stride away in this horizontal painting. A winged child holds a dove near his face to our left, and two dogs stand to our right of the pair. The woman sits facing away from us, twisting to our right. Her knees are bent with one knee raised as she leans back on her seat and turns to wrap her arms around the man’s chest. Her flushed face looks up toward the man. She has pale skin, and her blond hair is braided and coiled on the back of her head. A sheer white cloth drapes from her left shoulder, along the left side of her body, and over that knee. Her seat is covered with an orchid-pink cloth. The man strides to our right with his shoulders angled in that direction. He turns his head to look at the woman under lowered lids. He has short, curly brown hair, and his pink lips are parted. He wears a steel-blue toga tied in place with a gold band over one shoulder. A horn is tied around his waist with a gold sash. He wears a shin-high, laced sandal on the leg we can see. The arm closer to the woman is held high, that hand gripping a tall staff. He holds the leashes of the two dogs with his other hand, by his side. A pink band is tied around that upper arm. One bronze-brown dog stands facing our right in profile, while the other, closer to us, has a white body and a brown head, which hangs down as it looks to our left. Both dogs have floppy ears, and their mouths are open with their pink tongues hanging out. In the shadows just beyond the woman’s back knee, the winged baby hunches his shoulders while holding the white dove to his cheek. The cherub has short, blond hair, rounded, flushed cheeks, and small white wings. The elbow closer to us rests on a ledge or tree branch. A tree grows up next to the cherub, reaching off the top edge of the painting. A hill rises to our right in the distance, and a rainbow arcs against a pale blue sky screened with parchment-white clouds. A bright white flash in the upper right corner illuminates the trees beneath it.

On view: West Building, Main Floor - Gallery 23
Titian and Workshop, Venus and Adonis, c. 1540s/c. 1560-1565, oil on canvas, download image

Vintage Valentines

Need some inspiration for your valentine? Browse some examples, or put pen to paper and send a letter via carrier pigeon as the women are preparing to do in French rococo artist François Boucher’s The Love Letter. Washington, DC, master printmaker Lou Stovall’s vibrant screenprint is topped with the simple words “I Love You."

Not on view
Lou Stovall, I Love You, 1970, color screenprint on wove paper

Not on view
Charles White, Love Letter, 1971, color lithograph

Not on view
Inez McCombs, Valentine in Shadow Box, c. 1938, watercolor and graphite on paper, download image

Not on view
Manuel G. Runyan, Bookmark (Valentine), c. 1938, watercolor, graphite, and colored pencil on paper, download image

Discover more hidden treasures

Top image: Lois Mailou Jones, The Lovers (Somali Friends), 1950, casein on canvas, not on view

February 09, 2023