Art in London: 10 of the capital's most romantic paintings

Jessie Thompson

Love is in the air this month - and also on the canvas.

As part of our London paintings series, we’re marking this month with the most romantic paintings in London.

You can find many of these paintings at the National Gallery, Tate Britain and Royal Academy - the perfect excuse for a Valentine’s Day stroll around a gallery with your loved one.

And if you think Valentine’s Day is an over-commercialised, corporate sham, take comfort from these artists: many of them were painting hundreds of years before a Clintons Cards ever existed.

Diana Armfield RA, Still-life Rose and Wild Flowers (1989-1990)

(Royal Academy of Arts, London; photographer: John Hammond)

Because who doesn’t love a nice bunch of flowers on Valentine’s day? Armfield’s painting, housed in the Royal Academy collection, is a reminder of the joy a simple vase of blooms can bring into your life - and the best thing is, you can always do a Mrs Dalloway and buy the flowers yourself as a gift of self-love this V Day.

John Gibson RA, Cupid and Psyche (c. 1859)

(Royal Academy of Arts, London; photographer: Paul Highnam)

Celebrated 19th century sculptor Gibson depicted the story of Cupid and his love Psyche in a stunning series of marble facades that are part of the Royal Academy’s collection. If you’re looking to get struck by Cupid’s arrow this February, you might want to learn a little more about his origin story - he didn’t have the greatest time of it.

He fell in love with Psyche, despite the fact his mum Venus demanded he make her fall in love with an ugly monster (she was jealous of how beautiful Psyche was.) Psyche was not allowed to look at Cupid, so when she disobeyed this order, Venus set her a number of appallingly cruel tasks. Cupid, unable to bear Psyche’s suffering, pleaded with the gods to make her immortal, and eventually they were married in heaven. And you thought using Tinder was stressful.

Paris Bordone, A Pair of Lovers (1555-60)

(The National Gallery, London)

This work is thought by some to depict Daphnis and Chloe, who did not have a great time of it according to Greek myth. Abandoned at birth, they were discovered by a goatherd, later falling in love in between herding flocks for their parents. Things take a dark turn later, when attempts were made to abduct Chloe and beat up Daphnis. All’s well that ends well though: they got married and lived out the rest of their lives in the country. You can see this painting at the National Gallery.

Paolo Veronese, Happy Union (c. 1575)

(The National Gallery, London)

This painting, on show at the National Gallery, is part of a series called Allegories of Love. The exact meanings of each of the four paintings is open to debate, but they are thought to represent unfaithfulness, scorn, respect and happy union. The latter, seen above, will get you feeling the love; the couple’s union is marked by a laurel wreath, the olive branch symbolises peace, whilst the dog represents fidelity and the gold chain held by the boy is a symbol of marriage.

Thomas Gainsborough, Mr and Mrs Andrews (1750)

(The National Gallery, London)

This pair must be one of the most famous married couples in art: Gainsborough painted this work, which is part of the National Gallery’s collection, after the marriage of his friend Robert Andrews to Frances Carter. The space on Frances’ lap remains blank; it’s thought that the artist was reserving the space to paint a child for her to hold.

Solomon J. Solomon RA, St George (c. 1906)

(Royal Academy of Arts, London; photographer: John Hammond)

Solomon’s painting, which is part of the Royal Academy’s collection, shows our patron saint St George slaying a dragon and rescuing a maiden from its claws. We’re waiting for the feminist update where St Georgina saves a worried young lad from a fiery dragon - but until then, you have to admit that it’s quite romantic.

Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Portrait (1434)

(The National Gallery, London)

The Arnolfini Portrait is regarded by many as a revolutionary artwork, thanks to Van Eyck’s use of perspective, expansion of space and iconography. (The reflection on the mirror on the back wall is a tiny marvel in itself.) It depicts Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife at home - she is not pregnant, just up to date with the then contemporary fashion of very full-skirted dresses. It may be one of the most famous artworks in history, but at the end of the day it’s just a married couple kicking back at home with their dog - check out the casual slippers in the background. See it at the National Gallery.

Sandro Botticelli, Venus and Mars (c. 1485)

(The National Gallery, London)

Mars, God of War, sleeps on whilst Venus, Goddess of Love, sits awake watchfully. The message of this masterpiece of classical painting seems to be that love conquers all (and that some people can even sleep through a cherub blowing a trumpet in their ear). It’s part of the National Gallery’s collection, where you can find out more about Botticelli.

Frederic George Stephens, The Proposal (The Marquis and Griselda) (c. 1850)

(Tate. Bequeathed by H.F. Stephens 1932)

Stephens’ work can be seen in Tate Britain’s Walk Through British Art, the gallery’s exemplary chronological display of some of its permanent collection. This work depicts a scene from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: in the Clerk’s Tale, a marquis proposes to a poor peasant girl then subjects her to a series of trials to test her love. She eventually wins his devotion.

After Edward Penny, engraved by George Townly Stubbs, The Respectful Lover (c. 1796)

(Royal Academy of Arts, London)

This painting contains one of the most romantic things you can ask for: respect. And who doesn’t enjoy a nice country walk with their beloved?

  • Sarah, Duchess of York receives apology from magazine – see statement
    News
    Hello!

    Sarah, Duchess of York receives apology from magazine – see statement

    Sarah, Duchess of York has received an apology from a magazine who mistakenly reported that she had been offered $15m to write a tell-all book about the royal family. "We now reservedly accept that any suggestion that Sarah, Duchess of York is considering writing or accepting financial reward for any such book about the royal family was based on pure speculation and is totally without foundation.

  • EU leaders won’t even consider trade deal with UK at Brexit summit this week because of talks collapse
    News
    The Independent

    EU leaders won’t even consider trade deal with UK at Brexit summit this week because of talks collapse

    The 27 EU leaders will not even consider a trade deal with Britain at the “moment of truth” EU summit in Brussels tomorrow, following the collapse of talks on the Irish border this weekend. The shock revelation, confirmed by senior EU diplomats familiar with preparations for the meeting, shows the rising risk of a no-deal Brexit as Theresa May travels to the EU capital in a bid to save her project. Over dinner on Wednesday night the heads of government will decide whether there is any point in holding a special Brexit summit in November or whether the horse has already bolted and they should step-up preparations for a no-deal.

  • Pippa Middleton and James Matthews welcome first child together - find out gender
    News
    Hello!

    Pippa Middleton and James Matthews welcome first child together - find out gender

    Pippa Middleton and her husband James Matthews have welcomed their first child together, it has been confirmed. The couple welcomed a baby boy on Monday, both mother and child are doing well. A spokesperson told HELLO!: "James and Pippa have had a baby boy.

  • Rebecca Humphries tells fans she’s ‘back’ after split from Seann Walsh: ‘#Takenoutthetrash’
    News
    Evening Standard

    Rebecca Humphries tells fans she’s ‘back’ after split from Seann Walsh: ‘#Takenoutthetrash’

    Rebecca Humphries has told fans that she’s “back” after a difficult week following her split from long-time boyfriend Seann Walsh. The actress was left reeling after pictures of her boyfriend passionately kissing his Strictly dance partner Katya Jones emerged last week, prompting her to end their five-year relationship. After a difficult few days, in which Walsh and Jones survived elimination on Sunday’s show, Humphries broke her social media silence on Tuesday.

  • Black Friday 2018: The best Amazon deals
    News
    The Independent

    Black Friday 2018: The best Amazon deals

    Black Friday is almost here, meaning major retailers are already slashing prices on everything from tech to fashion to kick off the Christmas shopping season.

  • Theresa May’s Brexit endgame is painful — but she’s not the only EU leader suffering
    News
    Evening Standard

    Theresa May’s Brexit endgame is painful — but she’s not the only EU leader suffering

    Theresa May’s endgame is so painful to watch because it combines the grave consequences of failed Brexit negotiations with the improbable comedy of operetta. Shortly after, we were informed that “key issues remain” and Raab had a day-return ticket home. Since then an exhausted Prime Minister has trundled to the Commons (again) to announce with emphasis that she will not sign up to an interpretation of the “backstop” on the Irish border that she had effectively already agreed to in her bid to sell the Chequers plan in the summer.

  • VOTE: Who was the best-dressed guest at Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank's royal wedding?
    News
    Hello!

    VOTE: Who was the best-dressed guest at Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank's royal wedding?

    As royalty, showbiz stars and supermodels arrived at the glorious wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank at Windsor Castle last week, onlookers were treated to a parade of impeccably dressed guests. From the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex, who both chose to celebrate their own wedding dress designers – Meghan in an elegant navy Givenchy ensemble and Kate in a vibrant cerise Alexander McQueen number – to catwalk queen Cara Delevingne, who channelled tailored chic in an Emporio Armani tuxedo and a cummerbund top hat, there was no shortage of style on the big day.

  • Liverpool have chance to test squad strength after Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah return injured
    News
    Evening Standard

    Liverpool have chance to test squad strength after Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah return injured

    If Liverpool’s summer investment served its purpose, Jurgen Klopp should be facing a slightly less anxious wait over the fitness of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in the coming days. Both forwards are doubts for the Reds’ upcoming trip to Huddersfield Town after sustaining suspected groin and thumb injuries respectively while on international duty this week. Mane, meanwhile, was taken to hospital after injuring his hand in a training session with Senegal on Monday and subsequently returned to Melwood early for further assessment.

  • BMW X4 on long-term test: is this coupé-cum-SUV a segment too far?
    News
    The Telegraph

    BMW X4 on long-term test: is this coupé-cum-SUV a segment too far?

    Our Car: X4 xDrive20d M Sport X

  • Jeremy Hunt sides with Cabinet Brexiteers on open-ended customs union
    News
    Evening Standard

    Jeremy Hunt sides with Cabinet Brexiteers on open-ended customs union

    Jeremy Hunt is siding with potential Cabinet rebels opposing a Brexit deal that would leave Britain “locked in” to the European Union, it emerged today. The Foreign Secretary is said to have made clear in private that he is against any agreement that would tie Britain to a form of customs union with no clear way to leave in future. Eyebrows were raised when Mr Hunt attended a pizza night hosted by senior Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom, the Commons Leader, in her office at the Commons.

  • News
    Business Insider UK

    Paul Allen's passions: Rock n' roll, sports and philanthropy

    Personal computers, conservation, pro football, rock n' roll and rocket ships: Paul G. Allen couldn't have asked for a better way to spend, invest and donate the billions he reaped from co-founding Microsoft with childhood friend Bill Gates. Allen used the fortune he made from Microsoft — whose Windows operating system is found on most of the world's desktop computers — to invest in other ambitions, from tackling climate change and advancing brain research to finding innovative solutions to solve some of the world's biggest challenges. Allen died Monday in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to his company Vulcan Inc. He was 65.

  • 5 highlights from day 1 of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal tour
    News
    Yahoo News UK

    5 highlights from day 1 of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal tour

    The Duke and Duchess had a packed first day on their royal tour.

  • Frankie Bridge's gorgeous rainbow leopard print dress is perfect for cocktail hour
    News
    Hello!

    Frankie Bridge's gorgeous rainbow leopard print dress is perfect for cocktail hour

    From her dazzling selection of coats to her Topshop suit, we can’t get enough of her outfit of the day snaps (and her walk-in wardrobe.) On Monday, the former Saturdays singer shared a mirror selfie and she was wearing a fabulous dress, which was from high street store Karen Millen.

  • News
    Business Insider UK

    Rembrandt's Night Watch to get restoration in Amsterdam

    The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is going to restore its most famous painting, Rembrandt van Rijn's Night Watch, starting next year in a project that will be open to the public and viewable online. Rijksmusem General Director Taco Dibbits said Tuesday that from July the huge Golden Age masterpiece will be encased in a specially built glass chamber as it first undergoes a thorough varnish-to-canvas examination using a precise microscope.

  • Leadsom says she fully supports the prime minister
    ITN

    Leadsom says she fully supports the prime minister

    Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom says she fully supports Prime Minister Theresa May, who is doing a 'very complicated job'.

  • Vast cosmic explosions could be flinging gold and platinum across the universe, Nasa scientists reveal
    News
    The Independent

    Vast cosmic explosions could be flinging gold and platinum across the universe, Nasa scientists reveal

    Vast explosions, throwing out gold, platinum and many of the world's most precious elements, could be happening throughout the universe. Nasa scientists have spotted what they think are immense explosions caused by neutron stars colliding into each other in distant space. When that catastrophic event happened, it sent an intense jet of of high-energy particles through space that made their way past the scientists who spotted them using Nasa's array of space telescopes.

  • China's Dabeinong reports suspected African swine fever case on related farm - media
    News
    Reuters

    China's Dabeinong reports suspected African swine fever case on related farm - media

    One of China's top animal feed producers said on Tuesday an affiliated firm has culled nearly 20,000 pigs due to a suspected case of African swine fever, according to a report by the China Securities Journal. Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co Ltd reported the information to investors in an online platform on Tuesday, the state-owned journal said. China has reported more than 30 separate outbreaks of the deadly disease in nine provinces and municipalities since the first case in early August and has slaughtered tens of thousands of animals.

  • Suzuki and Mitsubishi axe diesels in Europe
    News
    motor1

    Suzuki and Mitsubishi axe diesels in Europe

    More and more manufacturers are ditching the technology.

  • News
    Sky News

    Misogyny and loathing for men could be hate crimes

    Crimes motivated by misogyny, a loathing for men, ageism and a loathing of goths could all be classed as hate crimes. The Law Commission will look at whether offences motivated by the dislike, contempt or ingrained prejudice against women or men should be treated as a hate crime. It will also consider if prejudice based on age or hatred of certain subcultures, including goths or punks, would be a hate crime.

  • News
    Business Insider UK

    EU presidency says Brexit talks on track on eve of summit

    Austria's European affairs minister says Brexit talks are making progress but that an imminent breakthrough appears unlikely. Bluemel's voice matters as his country holds the EU's rotating presidency. Britain is set to leave the European Union in March, but a Brexit agreement must be sealed in coming weeks to leave enough time for relevant parliaments to ratify it.

  • News
    Business Insider UK

    Asian shares gain, but inflation drags on Chinese benchmarks

    SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian markets were mostly higher on Tuesday, though Chinese benchmarks fell after the government reported inflation rose for a fourth straight month. Hopes that President Donald Trump may meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in November lifted sentiment.

  • 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS revealed with 453 bhp
    News
    motor1

    2019 Porsche Panamera GTS revealed with 453 bhp

    The Sport Turismo gets a GTS upgrade, too.

  • See how the Porsche 911 has evolved through the years
    motor1

    See how the Porsche 911 has evolved through the years

    Numbers don't lie: engines, chassis, tyres, brakes; all have changed so much over time.

  • News
    Business Insider UK

    The Latest: Pompeo lands in Saudi Arabia to meet with king

    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Saudi Arabia to meet with King Salman over the disappearance and alleged slaying of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi. Pompeo landed on Tuesday morning in Riyadh and was to immediately meet the king over the crisis surrounding Khashoggi, who disappeared two weeks ago on a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

  • Best cashmere pieces for children and babies
    News
    Evening Standard

    Best cashmere pieces for children and babies

    Cashmere is a type of wool that is made from the soft undercoats of cashmere goats. Cashmere products are pricey because of the way the material is produced. On average, a cashmere goat generates only a little over 100 grams of cashmere fibre each year – meaning it is made in limited quantities.