Art Works Blog

The art of Love...

Washington, DC

A 1919 valentine from the Library of Congress' collection

To celebrate Valentine's Day, we asked staff to share their favorite take on the "art" of love...

Rebecca Gross

One of my favorite long songs is Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time." No matter how down and out I may feel, that song always thrills me with the hopefulness of new love. It's a great reminder that happiness does indeed go on.

Adam Kampe

I’m going with Pablo Neruda’s "Poem #14" from 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair. This poem (as translated by W.S. Merwin) contains one of the best endings of all time: "I want/to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees." It’s fitting considering we’re on the edge of spring. (p.s. An interesting Neruda note from the interwebs: He always wrote in green ink, the color of hope.)

Victoria Hutter

Since my passion is dance, my first thoughts on the art(s) of love are via that art form, especially since ballet is full of lovers from a white swan and her prince, to a Scotsman and a woodland sylph, to Romeo and Juliet, among many others.  So it’s hard to choose. But my most recent experience of “art to swoon by” came from music not dance.

During the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters award ceremony and concert on January 11th at Jazz at Lincoln Center, honoree Johnny Mandel came on stage (around 1:14) to accept his award and lead the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in his song “The Shadow of Your Smile.” The performance was wonderful then and, thanks to the archived webcast of the concert, gets better with repeated listening, becoming sweeter every time. Wynton Marsalis’s performance has a light touch, yearning but nonchalant, ardent and elegant. Perfect for slow dancing in the living room with the one you love, the lights turned down low.

Kelli Rogowski

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Anne of Green Gables. Who doesn’t enjoy reading about the swoon-worthy Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, or Gilbert Blythe?

Jamie Bennett

Corey Dargel spent two years writing “Other People’s Love Songs,” which were custom-written love songs that had been commissioned by individuals for their significant others. I have heard Corey perform other pieces at the HERE Arts Center and as part of the International Contemporary Ensemble, but there is something magical about specific love seen through an artist’s eyes. I also have to believe---given a core tenet of quantum physics---that these relationships were forever changed by having an artist observe them.

Maryrose Flanigan

Ezra Pound’s translation of "The River Merchant’s Wife" by Li Po, because of lines like "At fifteen I stopped scowling, /I desired my dust to be mingled with yours…" and "And I will come out to meet you/ As far as Cho-fu-Sa"…and lots of other reasons that comprise the lines of the poem.

Josephine Reed

Music often can give expression to love, and I think the most romantic piece of music I've heard is Sergei Rachmaninov: "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini: Variation No. 18." It sounds like love when you are in love…from the soft beginnings of the piano alone to the orchestra taking up the theme, opening and widening it, strings echoing the piano. It is almost painfully beautiful…and then incredibly, the orchestra and piano restate the theme with an even greater lushness and intensity. It ends simply  with piano alone. Listening to to it leaves little wonder why Rachmaninov is considered one of the great romantic composers. "Variation 18" sounds a full-throttle, over the side of the cliff, how did I live before him, how could I live without him kind of love. Impractical and exquisite. You wouldn’t want to live there, but boy, it was sure nice to visit.

Paulette Beete

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese. Although everyone knows number 43 ("How do I love thee? Let me count the ways"), when you read the entire collection, it's full of doubt and disbelief and hope and joy and jealousy and grief, in other words, it's the whole scope of love, the downs as well as the ups. I also love that the title of the collection comes from Robert Browning's nickname for Elizabeth.

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