Artwork and objects that evoke the rituals and romance of Valentine’s Day are on view in the Stanford museums, on the campus grounds and in the library – from candy to kissing and dining to dancing. If you are inclined to approach Feb. 14 from a scientific point of view, Stanford Libraries specialists Grace Baysinger and Cristina Flores-Herrera have put together
a brief guide to science resources related to Valentine’s Day, including cards, videos, books and infographics. May these images and resources inspire you.
Candy, and especially chocolate, is a Valentine’s Day tradition. In his painting “Candy Counter,” American artist Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920) virtually frosts the surface of the canvas with paint to suggest the rippling of fudge or the shiny stickiness of caramel. On view at the Anderson Collection. (Candy Counter, 1962. Oil on canvas.)
Young love. First love. Or maybe just a dance in the street. This photo by Brooklyn-born Helen Levitt (1913-2009) is on view at the Cantor in the exhibition “Outside Looking In: John Gutmann, Helen Levitt and Wright Morris.” (New York, c. 1940. Gelatin silver print. © Helen Levitt Film Documents LLC. All rights reserved. The Capital Group Foundation Photography Collection at Stanford University.)
Flowers are the classic Valentine’s Day gift. If you can’t get to a florist on Feb. 14, take your sweetie to the Cantor to view this bouquet by one of the Dutch Golden Age masters of still life, Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621). (Flowers in a Glass Vase, c. 1615. Oil on panel.)
This Georgian fan dated 1797 in Stanford Libraries Special Collections offers insightful notations advising its lady owner on love, life and morals. Centered among the vignettes is an illustration of Cupid carrying a description of its intended use. (Lady’s Advisor Fan, 1797. Paper, wood and metal.).
American painter Richard Diebenkorn (1922-93) dedicated the entirety of his sketchbook #13 to his beloved wife Phyllis, pictured here, as a testament to their strong partnership and adoration of one another. The two met at Stanford in 1940 and married in 1943 in Santa Barbara, Calif. All 1,045 drawings from the artist’s 29 sketchbooks are viewable in digital form on a jumbo touchscreen in the exhibition “Richard Diebenkorn at the Cantor” in the Oshman Family Gallery. (Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled from Sketchbook #13, page 9, 1965-66. Ink wash with pen and ink on paper. Gift of Phyllis Diebenkorn. © The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.)
Red has long been associated with desire, love and romance. American artist Mark Rothko (1903-70) may not have been painting an eight-foot valentine when he created “Pink and White over Red,” on view at the Anderson Collection, but interpretation is up to the viewer. (Pink and White over Red, 1957. Oil on canvas.)
“Gay Liberation” on Lomita Mall incorporates four life-size bronze figures, paired off in couples, and actual steel benches from a park near Stonewall Inn. Through his cast figures, American artist George Segal (1924-2000) translates human emotion using the subtle touch between the figures. In doing so, the artist embraces the charged subject matter and the struggle that openly gay people faced during the 1960s and 1970s. (Gay Liberation, 1980. Bronze and paint.)
Tucked into one of the drawers in Mark Dion’s installation “The Melancholy Museum: Love, Death and Mourning at Stanford,” is a small fringed menu of a French feast dated Feb. 13 that was in the Stanford Family Collection before it was transferred to Stanford Libraries Special Collections. One can imagine the family dining on terrapins (it was a different time) and bonbons on the eve of the Feast of Saint Valentine. (Unknown artist, menu with a purple fringe border, unknown year.)
This companionable seated couple from Jalisco, Mexico, by an unknown artist is on view at the Cantor. It is an endearing vignette that was possibly made for burial as a way to provide physical and spiritual comfort for the deceased in their journey into the afterlife. (Seated male and female couple, 200 BCE-300 CE. Ceramic.)
French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) worked an expressive sensuality into the cold material of his art, perhaps most notably in “The Kiss,” which was modeled after a panel from his monumental “Gates of Hell.” The inspiration for “Gates of Hell” was Dante’s “Inferno” and the lovers engaged in the kiss are Paola and Francesca who sadly did not live to see another Valentine’s Day after they were discovered in each other’s arms. “The Kiss” is on view in the exhibition “Rodin: the Shock of the Modern Body” at the Cantor and “Gates of Hell” is on view in the Rodin Sculpture Garden. (The Kiss (Le baiser), c. 1980-82. Bronze.)
Yo: the most concise pickup line ever. Oy: one possible response to said pickup line. In the fast paced world of today’s romance, perhaps brevity has its place. Deborah Kass’s monumental sculpture is on view in front of the Cantor. (OY/YO, 2019. Aluminum, polymer and clear coat.)
Sometimes your valentine becomes your partner, and sometimes that partnership is made official in a chapel. This post-minimal chapel by Robert Therrien (1947-2019) is on view at the Anderson Collection. (No title (chapel), 1985. Oil and wax on wood.)