As Valentine’s Day fills the air with love and romance once again, we look at how love has inspired artists over the centuries and across the world. Love, it seems, has always been all around us

We have selected five of the most iconic artworks inspired by love from across the globe and delve into the stories they depict, as well as the stories that surround their creation. Find out who the lovers are in Rodin’s Kiss, discover who created the iconic pop art image of LOVE and learn about the myth behind Magritte’s famous painting, The Lovers.

We also tell you where in the world you can see these most romantic of artworks; with all of them in beautiful cities that you can visit on a Celebrity Cruise.

Sandro Botticelli

The Birth of Venus

Venus was the Roman goddess of love, sex, beauty and fertility. This heady mix puts her in the top flight for artistic interpretations and none is more famous than Botticelli’s incredible painting. This was a first on canvas in 15th Century Tuscany and used new techniques which made the colours sing.

Reputedly commissioned by the Medici family, it symbolises the birth of love and spiritual beauty as a driving force of life. It is a sensuous and beguiling picture with the shy Venus about to be clothed after being blown ashore by Zephyr, the god of the west wind. Notice the violets in the meadow; these were a symbol of modesty but were also used in love potions!

This amazing painting is housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, one of the beautiful cities you can visit on your Italy cruise.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard

The Stolen Kiss

This painting captures a moment of illicit love. The young girl at the centre of the picture is caught between the thrill of meeting her secret lover and her duty to be in the room through the other door. She leans toward her lover but coyly keeps her face turned away.

Little is known about the Fragonard’s inspiration for the painting, other than its artistic influences, but the theme of fleeting moments of passion with the chance of getting caught strikes the same chord today as it did to the mannered high society of the times.

The painting hangs in the Winter Palace at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, a complex of grand 18th century buildings that is work of art in itself. It is a must-see painting, in a must-see museum in a must-see city on your Russia cruise.

August Rodin

The Kiss

One of the most recognised artworks in the world, The Kiss by August Rodin had a rocky start. Considered inappropriate for public viewing by those intent on looking after the morals of the nation, it caused considerable controversy when it was first unveiled. To add to the scandal, the couple are Francesca and Paolo, the adulterous lovers from Dante’s Inferno.

Luckily for us, the romance and beauty of the marble sculpture quickly came to define it, rather than its affront to 19th Century niceties. You can marvel at this timeless depiction of love at the Musee Rodin in Paris; a highlight to consider for your next Mediterranean cruise.

René Magritte

The Lovers

The Lovers, which hangs in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), is the first of a series of 4 variations by one of the leading lights of the surrealist movement, René Magritte. A simple picture of a kiss between lovers is subverted by the hoods over their heads.

Could the hoods, which are a recurring theme in Magritte’s work, be linked to the story that Magritte saw his mother pulled from a lake after she committed suicide and her face was covered by her clothing? 

Not so, says the artist himself (and research suggests he wasn’t present). According to Magritte, the meaning in the picture is a mystery – it is unknowable. This leaves us to our own interpretations, and it is difficult not to draw the conclusion that the hoods are a barrier to true and intimate love. 

See The Lovers at the MoMA as part of your USA cruise.

Robert Indiana

LOVE Sculpture

A simple, striking artwork that says all that needs to be said, Indiana’s LOVE first became famous as a Christmas card design for New York’s MoMA in 1965. LOVE was immediately co-opted by the hippie movement of 1960s America and has retained something of that idealism as a concept, perhaps because of its very simplicity.

You will almost certainly see those familiar stacked letters at least once this Valentine’s day; they are far more famous than the artist himself, who didn’t sign or copyright his work and, because of this, lost control of the image. There are many versions around the world but perhaps the most famous is the sculpture in New York, Indiana’s home as a young artist. Build it into your New York cruise with the one you love.