Writing a love letter has been a way to express inner most feelings for centuries, scribbled on the back of a used envelope, written with a quill and ink or scratched on tattered parchment amidst an ongoing war. The deepest of human emotions, love has always needed to be expressed to ones that mean the most to us.
As long as people have been writing letters of love to their significant others, there has been alternative methods to showing how much you care for someone else. From poetry and songs to art and architecture, love has been expressed in a variety of ways – all as valid and beautiful as each other.
One of the world’s most recognisable pieces of architecture, the Taj Mahal was built between 1631 and 1648 and was in fact built as a monument of love. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal to express his love for his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal and centuries later remains to be one of the most extravagant and grand tokens of love ever created.
More recently, a monument was dedicated to love itself, the magnificent Swallow’s Nest that sits on a romantic stretch of cliffside in Gaspra, Crimea. Construction of the ‘Castle of Love’ finished in 1912. Designer, Leonid Sherwood created the castle for German businessman Baron von Steingel, who wanted to have a building that stood as an ode to L-O-V-E.
Scores of esteemed artists have chosen the medium of art to explore love’s depth and complexities. Klimt’s The Kiss (1908) shows two lovers wrapped up in each other. Their heads are shrouded in gold leaf and they swim in a sea of opalescent cloth. The world is a blur to these lovers who, when kissing are lost in their own magical world.
Love can be expressed in unconventional mediums too, as seen with graffiti that is now becoming a new way to show affection. Graffiti Life created a detailed mural dedicated to London in Shoreditch. The London-based street art collective started in 2010 and have focuses on empowering and inspiring the next generation of creatives. This street art for London shows the love and passion these artists have for the city.
In 1794, Scottish poet and pioneer of the Romantic movement, Robert Burns wrote ‘A Red, Red Rose’ as an exploration of the phenomenon of love. The poem is an attempt at expressing the depth of his immeasurable love for significant other. Their love is as sweet as a beautiful song played by a skilled musician.
A different take on a traditional love letter is the painting, Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy by David Hockney. This painting is not straight forward as it seems, it has a hidden meaning. In the piece sits Ossie Clark, fashion designer and major figure during the 1960’s fashion movement with his wife, Celia Birtwell (textile designer). Hockney was Ossie’s best man at their 1969 wedding but was Ossie’s lover years before. The painting was made out of love for the couple and shows the friendship that the pair and Hockney had.
Deeply in love, married couple Holly and Gerry live in New York City. The unthinkable happens and Gerry’s death devastates Holly. But Gerry hasn’t left her completely. She receives a bundle of notes, one for each of the months after his death, guiding Holly through her grief and helping her in new life, each note signed ‘PS, I Love You’. The love letters are even more meaningful since Gerry is no longer with her and without them she would have been lost, trying to navigate her life.
‘Oh, my love, my darling
I’ve hungered for your touch’
Like a love letter written via musical notes, angelic sound and poetic lyrics come together to tell a story of desperation and yearning for someone. Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers is a song about missing the one that you love, something that lots of people are going through now during this lockdown .
Celebrated artist, Sir Alfred Munnings wrote many letters to his second wife, Violet McBride during the 1920s. Intimate and affectionate, this century- old correspondence still rings true today (especially with its very British comments about the weather). These 54 letters are the basis of The Munnings Art Museum’s latest book, Yours with love AJ: Letters from Sir Alfred Munnings to his wife, Violet 1920 – 1922 launching on 10 May.
The book features over 30 illustrations of the paintings and sketches that relate to the individuals mentioned in the letters. These early letters from Munnings gives a unique insight into the man and his life during a pivotal time in his career.
As Alfred Munnings, Shah Jahan and many others show, no matter what form they take or who they are for, every love letter is special and important for showing how much you care.
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