Most romantic: Romeo & Juliet

February 14, 2012, 11:30 AM GMT+0

71% Britons say painting of lovers' parting is most romantic artwork on display, finds Art Fund poll

A painting of Romeo & Juliet’s parting on her balcony has been voted the most romantic work of art in the UK, according to our poll conducted on behalf of the Art Fund to coincide with St Valentine’s Day.

  • 71% of 2,030 Britons thought that Frank Bernard Dicksee’s Romeo and Juliet (Southampton City Art Gallery) was the most romantic work of art currently on display in UK museums and galleries
  • 68% of Brits chose the great image of sexual love, Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss (Tate Britain, London)
  • 49% selected William Hogarth’s sensual Before and After (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), making it third on the list
  • 22% chose Nicolas Poussin’s Rinaldo & Armida (Dulwich Picture Gallery, London)
  • 19% thought Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing (Wallace Collection, London)
  • 14% Jan van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait (National Gallery, London)
  • 13% Diego Velazquez’s The Rokeby Venus (National Gallery, London)
  • 11% Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and Mars (National Gallery, London)
  • And with 7% apiece, Paul Gauguin’s Nevermore (The Courtauld Gallery, London) and Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne (National Gallery, London)

Four of the works in the top 10 - Diego Velazquez’s The Rokeby Venus (National Gallery, London), Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss (Turner Margate, Kent), Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing (Wallace Collection, London) and William Hogarth’s Before and After (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) - were acquired with financial support from the Art Fund which has over the past five years along given £24 million to buy art.

Dr Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund said ‘This is a timely reminder of the power of art to touch the heart as well as the eye and the top ten also shows what riches we have in UK museums and galleries.

With the success of the National Art Pass and continued support of our 90,000 members, the Art Fund can continue helping museums across the country to buy, show and share great works of art for the enjoyment of everyone.’

1. Romeo and Juliet, by Frank Bernard Dicksee - Southampton City Art Gallery (71% chose this as the most romantic artwork currently on display)

The scene is the parting of Romeo and Juliet after their wedding night and the last time they will see one another alive. As one critic pointed out, the painting perfectly conveys the tenderness and the passion of this poignant moment when Romeo says, 'Farewell, farewell! One kiss, and I'll descend.'

2. The Kiss, by Auguste Rodin - Tate Britain, London (68%)

This depicts the adulterous lovers Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini, who were slain by Francesca’s outraged husband. They appear in Dante’s Inferno, which describes how their passion grew as they read the story of Lancelot and Guinevere together.

3. Before and After by William Hogarth - Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (49%)

According to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Before shows a shaded glade where a charmingly coy mistress makes a show of embarrassment at the advances of a handsome young gallant. However it is superficially all rather polite and the physical realities of sex are discreetly hidden. After turns all this on its head. Here the protagonists' clothing is in disarray and their faces flushed. The expressions that Hogarth gives the pair are superbly telling: the girl seems anxious and seeks reassurance from her beau, who stares into the middle distance, his face a mask of post-coital bewilderment. The haste of their coupling is suggested by her stockings which are still held up by their garters.

The Art Fund helps UK museums and galleries to buy, show and share art for the enjoyment of everyone.

It is independently funded by 90,000 supporters who purchase a National Art Pass costing from just £37.50, which gives free entry to over 200 museums, galleries and historic houses across the country as well as 50% off major exhibitions.

See the survey details and full results here