top of page

The History of Wedding Paintings: From Ancient Egypt to Live Art today

Updated: Mar 28, 2023


As a portrait artist and a Live Wedding Painter, I have always been fascinated by Art History, the history of portraits, and most recently the history of Live Art and Wedding Paintings.

A Live Painting can be defined as a form of performance art in which an artist creates artwork in front of a live audience. It can be both planned or improvisational and can take place at events such as music concerts, festivals, weddings, or other public events, allowing the audience to observe the creative process of the artist and engage with the artwork uniquely and dynamically. This can include various forms of live painting such as Plein Air Painting, which involves creating artwork in real-time and in the presence of natural surroundings, as well as Live Wedding Paintings, the most popular type of Live Art today, which involve creating a professional-grade artwork of a specific moment at a wedding celebration in front of a live audience.

From the earliest times of recorded history, humans have celebrated love and union through artistic expression. Today, as the trend of Live Event Painting continues to grow in popularity, it's at least interesting to understand the evolution of this art form and how it relates to the rich history of wedding paintings. Join me as we take a journey through time, exploring the beauty and history of my selection of wedding art from the ancient world of Egypt to live art today.

Ancient Egyptian Wedding Art:

The ancient Egyptians were among the first cultures to capture wedding celebrations through artistic expression. Their art includes painting, sculpture, architecture, and other forms of art, such as drawings on papyrus, created between 5000 BCE and 300 AD. Most of this art was highly stylized and symbolic, often including representations of the gods, goddesses, and royalty. It was believed that the adornment of tomb walls with reliefs or painted scenes could guarantee the continuation of life, as mural decoration was thought to possess magical properties that ensured the proper execution of significant rituals and bolstered the remembrance of royal accomplishments.

This beautifully painted relief was found on the lid of a box found in Tutankhamun's tomb, it’s a representation of him receiving flowers from his wife Ankhesenamun at their wedding.

Queen Ankhesenamun, known as ‘Egypt’s Lost Princess’, married King Tut (Tutankhamun) in 1334 BC, at the age of 13, he was a few years shy of ten. They lived in Amarna, the city King Akhenaton built for four years until they moved back to the capital city of Thebes. Thebes was the center of worship for the god Amun, and at this time, the couple changed their names to reflect an acceptance of him.

Queen Ankhesenamun was born during Egypt’s most unsettled times in the 18th dynasty and her life reflected the turbulence of her country.

Medieval Wedding Illuminated Manuscripts:

An illuminated manuscript is a formally prepared document where the text is often supplemented with flourishes such as borders and miniature illustrations. Often used in the Roman Catholic Church for prayers, liturgical services, and psalms, the practice continued into secular texts from the 13th century onward and typically include proclamations, enrolled bills, laws, charters, inventories, deeds, and often commissioned to commemorate weddings. These manuscripts were painstakingly crafted by hand, with intricate calligraphy and detailed illustrations. These books were treasured possessions, passed down through generations as a testament to the enduring love of the couples they commemorated. These works of art provide a glimpse into the life and culture of medieval times and the importance of weddings in these societies.

This is an illuminated manuscript depicting the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Louis VII of France on the left.

The right side depicts Louis VII departing for the 2nd Crusade. Louis VII is depicted quite prominently in the center boat wearing his royal crown. Eleanor, although not depicted on the right, would have accompanied Louis VII on the 2nd Crusade. This is an interesting illuminated manuscript because it is one of the only depictions that show Eleanor of Aquitaine about the second crusade.

Renaissance Wedding Paintings:

The Renaissance was a period of great artistic innovation, wedding paintings were a popular subject in art, often commissioned by wealthy families to commemorate weddings and celebrate the union of two families. Renaissance artists were known for their attention to detail and realism, and this was reflected in their wedding paintings. The paintings were highly detailed, with rich colors and intricate patterns in the clothing and decor. These paintings were often displayed in the homes of the families as a symbol of their wealth and status.

Renaissance Wedding Paintings could be with a crowd, meaning with their families and guests, like "The Wedding Feast at Cana" by Sandro Botticelli, which depicts the biblical story of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding feast. The painting is filled with figures, from musicians to guests, and captures the joy and celebration of the occasion.

But one of the most famous Renaissance wedding paintings and my favorite is Jan van Eyck's "Arnolfini Portrait", a beautiful couple-centered composition that depicts Giovanni Arnolfini, an Italian merchant, and his wife, standing in the middle of a room, the couple is dressed in elaborate clothing, and they are holding hands. The painting is rich in symbolism, including a convex mirror, oranges on the windowsill, and a chest that were a remarkable sight in Bruges symbolizing fertility, virtue, and guiltlessness, and a dog at the couple's feet representing loyalty and stability.

The painting is renowned for its incredible attention to detail and realism, which was a hallmark of Van Eyck's style. The use of oil paints allowed him to achieve a level of luminosity and depth that was not possible with previous painting techniques. The painting is also notable for its use of light, which gives the scene a sense of warmth and intimacy.

There is some debate among art historians about the meaning of the painting. Some believe that it is a simple wedding portrait, while others argue that it contains symbolic elements that suggest a more complex narrative. For example, the convex mirror in the background reflects images of two figures who are not visible in the scene, which has led some to speculate that the painting is a record of a secret marriage or betrothal.

Regardless of its exact meaning, the "Arnolfini Portrait" remains one of the most iconic and influential wedding paintings in the history of art. Its combination of technical mastery and emotional resonance has inspired generations of artists and continues to captivate viewers today.

Overall, Renaissance wedding paintings were an important part of the period's art history and continue to be celebrated today in museums for their beauty and historical significance.

Wedding paintings during the Rococo period

The Rococo period, which spanned from the early 18th century to the late 18th century, was characterized by an ornate and playful style. During this period, wedding paintings became more elaborate and detailed, often featuring intricate landscapes, lush gardens, and luxurious clothing.

One famous Rococo wedding painting is "The Marriage Contract in a Landscape" by Antoine Watteau. The painting depicts a couple signing their marriage contract in a lush, verdant landscape. The figures are elegantly dressed and surrounded by a group of onlookers, who are also dressed in fashionable clothing. The painting showcases the opulence and extravagance of the Rococo period, with its emphasis on leisure, pleasure, and luxury.

Another notable wedding paintings from the Rococo period is the "Marriage A-la-Mode" series by William Hogarth. This series of six paintings, created in about 1743, satirizes the arranged marriages of the upper class. The series shows the disastrous consequences of a loveless marriage, culminating in the death of the couple. The paintings are a commentary on the superficiality and moral decay of the upper class during the Rococo period.

While not strictly a wedding painting, I want to mention "The Swing", also known as The Happy Accidents of the Swing, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard captures the spirit of the Rococo period with its playful and sensuous style. The painting depicts a young woman swinging in a garden, with a young man hiding in the bushes to catch a glimpse of her legs. It is one of the masterpieces of the Rococo era and is Fragonard's best-known work, and the importance of the landscape in composition shares similarities with the impressionist period, the Plein Air movement, and contemporary live wedding paintings, where the landscape of the wedding locations play an important part of the composition, especially here in Hawaii.

Overall, wedding paintings during the Rococo period reflect the luxurious and ornate style of the time, showcasing lavish landscapes, elegant clothing, and playful compositions.

The 19th century, the Victorian era, and Impressionism

As an artist with a passion for history, literature, and weddings, I am inspired and fascinated by the evolution of wedding art.

The 19th century was a time of great change in both art and weddings. It was a time when the influence of the Victorian era was felt in both, shaping the way we celebrate and capturing the memories of our weddings. The Victorian period was marked by a fascination with romance and sentimentalism, which can be seen in works like "The Marriage of Queen Victoria" by Sir George Hayter. This grand painting depicts the royal wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840 and showcases the opulence and grandeur of Victorian weddings. The painting's romantic and dramatic style also reflects the Romanticism movement that was popular during this time and serves as a powerful reminder of the enduring impact of Victorian culture on our lives today. The trend of wearing a white wedding dress, engagement diamond rings, and elaborate floral arrangements, are examples of how the customs of the past continue to shape modern weddings.

In the realm of art movements, the 19th century saw the emergence of Romanticism, Realism, and Symbolism. These movements celebrated the emotional, the real, and the symbolic, respectively, and helped to shape the artistic landscape for generations to come. But looking back, it’s the Impressionist movement that keeps inspiring wedding art.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism emerged as dominant artistic movements, artists began to move away from traditional techniques and styles, embracing new methods and exploring the use of light and color in their paintings. These styles emphasized the beauty of nature and everyday life and sought to capture the fleeting qualities of light and color. The plein air art movement, which encouraged artists to paint outdoors, directly from nature, also gained popularity during this time.

The use of bright, vibrant colors and the focus on light and shadow created a new, fresh way of capturing landscapes and events. The Impressionist movement was known for capturing fleeting moments of life and light realistically. During the 19th century, white dresses became popular for women's wedding attire due to Queen Victoria's white gown at her wedding in 1840. Impressionist painters were drawn to the delicate and luminous quality of white dresses, which suited their emphasis on light and color. White dresses were also a popular subject for portrait paintings during this time, capturing both fashion trends and the essence of the women depicted. Several Impressionist artists painted women in white dresses, including Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, etc.

While not explicitly a wedding painting, one of my favorite Impressionist paintings that showcases this is "Dance in the City" by Renoir. It features a couple dressed in formal attire and could be interpreted as a depiction of a wedding celebration. The joyful, celebratory mood is perfectly captured in this painting, the colors are bright and playful, and the brushstrokes are loose and gestural. Renoir remains an inspiration for many contemporary wedding artists today.

A less colorful but subliminal wedding painting is "Bruden", or "The Bride" in English, created by the Swedish painter Anders Zorn in 1886. Zorn painted Impressionist landscapes and portraits in both watercolor and oil; he is best known for his loose brushstrokes and the vigorous style of his paintings of peasant girls bathing. I love its use of light and shadow to create a sense of depth and dimension, while also capturing the delicate and ethereal quality of the bride's white gown.

Another Impressionist masterpiece that I admire is "The Wedding March" by Theodore Robinson. This American painter captured the joy and beauty of a countryside wedding in France, using muted colors and loose brushstrokes to create a sense of movement and atmosphere. It's a prime example of the Impressionist style, which sought to capture the fleeting qualities of light and color in everyday life.

Today, wedding art continues to evolve and change with the times. Live wedding paintings have become an increasingly popular trend, and it's easy to see why with artists creating one-of-a-kind works of art during the wedding ceremony or reception. This allows couples to have a unique and personal piece of art to remember their special day and adds an extra layer of magic to the wedding experience.

The influence of the Plein Air movement can still be seen in contemporary live wedding paintings, where paintings often incorporate the natural surroundings of the wedding location, capturing the beauty and atmosphere of the event in a way that traditional photography cannot.

Here in Hawaii, where weddings often take place in stunning outdoor locations, the landscape and nature play an important part in the composition and elements of these live wedding paintings. I have the opportunity to capture the unique beauty and energy of each wedding, incorporating the colors of the ocean, the lush greenery of the landscape, and the warm glow of the Hawaiian sun.

Today, Live Wedding Art is becoming a vital aspect of the wedding tradition, just as the trend of wearing a white wedding dress started in the Victorian era.

The 20th century and the modern art movements

Wedding paintings in the 20th century reflect the styles and trends of the time. In the early part of the century, traditional portraits and scenes of the wedding ceremony were popular, often featuring realistic depictions of the bride and groom, their families, and the wedding party.

Edmund Blair Leighton is known for his historical paintings that convey romantic and nostalgic qualities. "The Marriage Register" depicts the formality of signing the registers, an important part of the traditional church marriage ceremony and a legal requirement.

As the century progressed, modern art movements such as Impressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism influenced wedding paintings. Artists began to experiment with new techniques and styles, resulting in more abstract and interpretive representations of the wedding ceremony and its participants.

In the latter half of the 20th century, wedding photography became increasingly popular, and wedding paintings became less common. However, some artists continued to create wedding-themed works in a variety of styles and mediums, from realistic oil paintings to abstract mixed media pieces.

The 20th century was a time of great change and innovation in the world of visual arts. Artists pushed the boundaries of traditional art forms and experimented with new mediums, techniques, and styles. This experimentation also had an impact on wedding art, with many artists creating works that reflected the changing attitudes toward love, marriage, and commitment.

One notable example is the relationship between John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who famously staged their Bed-In for Peace as a form of protest against the Vietnam War. The media attention they received brought their love and commitment to the forefront, inspiring artists to create art that celebrated the power of love and its ability to bring change.

Another example is the relationship between Jeff Koons and Ilona Staller, also known as Cicciolina. Their unconventional relationship challenged traditional notions of love and marriage, with Koons creating a series of works inspired by his wife's body and their shared experiences. This type of art focused on the personal and intimate aspects of love and relationships, rather than the public displays of commitment that were traditionally celebrated in art.

In Brazil, Tarsila do Amaral and Oswald de Andrade's relationship was one of artistic collaboration and intellectual exchange, it had a profound influence on the art world. They were both key figures of the Brazilian modernist movement, which questioned European influence and celebrated the country's unique cultural heritage and identity. Tarsila's painting "O Casamento" (The Wedding) exemplifies this, depicting a Brazilian wedding ceremony with bright colors and bold shapes. In 1928, Oswald wrote a manifesto called "Manifesto Antropófago" (Cannibal Manifesto), which proposed the idea of cultural cannibalism, or the idea that Brazil should consume and digest foreign cultures to create a unique and distinct Brazilian culture. This manifesto was influential in shaping the Brazilian modernist movement and had a lasting impact on Brazilian and Latin American culture and identity.

The relationship between Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera was another important influence on wedding art in the 20th century. Both artists were known for their political activism and unconventional lifestyles, and their marriage was marked by infidelity and tumultuousness.

"Frieda and Diego Rivera" is a 1931 oil painting by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The wedding portrait of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, who were married two years prior, was commissioned by art collector Albert M. Bender and was later donated to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in California, where it is part of the permanent collection. The painting has been interpreted in various ways, with some seeing it as a depiction of Kahlo as the wife of the great artist, and others seeing it as placing Kahlo in the producer/professional artist role.

Norman Rockwell was an American painter and illustrator. His works have a broad popular appeal in the United States for their reflection of the country's culture. Although Rockwell is often associated with idealized, nostalgic visions of American life, his painting "Bride to Be", made in 1973, also conveys a sense of joy and excitement that is universal to weddings and celebrations of love.

The impact of 20th-century visual arts on wedding art was not limited to the relationships and personal lives of artists. The broader cultural and social changes of the time also influenced the way weddings and marriages were represented in art.

For example, the rise of feminism and the women's liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s challenged traditional gender roles and expectations surrounding marriage. This was reflected in art, with many artists creating works that explored the complexities of relationships and the power dynamics at play.

In addition, the civil rights movement and the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the latter half of the century also had an impact on wedding art. Artists began to create works that celebrated diversity and challenged heteronormative and monogamous ideals of love and marriage.

Overall, the 20th century was a time of great change and innovation in the world of visual arts, and this was reflected in wedding art as well. Artists pushed the boundaries of traditional art forms, experimenting with new mediums, techniques, and styles to create works that celebrated love and relationships in all their complexity and diversity. The impact of 20th-century visual arts on relationships and wedding art was significant. Influential artists challenged traditional notions of love, marriage, and commitment, inspiring new forms of wedding art that celebrated the personal and intimate aspects of relationships.

21st century, the surge of the Live Wedding Art trend

As a professional artist, I've been blessed to witness the evolution of art and the way it's perceived in different eras. When it comes to the 21st century, I can confidently say that we're in the middle of a Live Wedding Art trend. The surge of this trend has taken the wedding industry by storm, and it's no surprise why. Live wedding painting has quickly become a popular choice for couples looking for something unique, personal, and unforgettable to commemorate their special day.

In recent years, there has been a rise in interest in Live Wedding Paintings, depicting a specific moment at a wedding celebration in front of a live audience. This trend has gained popularity, particularly after Covid 19 and the reopening, many artists now specialize in this form of Live Painting. Live Wedding Art is a unique and exciting way to capture the beauty and energy of a wedding celebration, providing a lasting memory for the couple and their loved ones.

One of the main reasons for the surge in popularity of Live Wedding Art is the desire for a more personalized and unique wedding experience. But another reason for the popularity is the rise of social media and the desire to share and showcase one's wedding on various platforms. A live wedding artist can provide a unique and eye-catching visual element to the wedding, the timelapse video of the process, the reaction of the guests and couple, and the final image of the painting can be shared with friends and family on social media, or printed copies.

Weddings are a celebration of love, and as an artist, I've always believed that art and love are intertwined. The Live Wedding Art trend captures the essence of both by creating a beautiful painting in real-time, capturing the unique details and emotions of the wedding day. It's not just a painting, it's a memory that will last a lifetime and more.

Wedding art has been around for centuries, but the Live Wedding Art trend takes it to a whole new level. It's a form of performance art, where the artist is not just creating a painting but also engaging with the guests and the environment. It's a live art experience that adds a touch of excitement and entertainment to the wedding reception.

As an artist, I've had the pleasure of creating many types of Live Art, but nothing compares to a Live Wedding Painting. It's a unique challenge that requires me to work quickly and efficiently while capturing every detail of the wedding day. The result is always a breathtaking piece of art that tells a beautiful story.

The Live Wedding Art trend is not just a fad. It's a trend that's here to stay, and for a good reason. Couples are looking for something more than just a traditional wedding painting. They want a painting that captures the emotions and memories of their special day. They want a painting that's personal and unique to them. And that's exactly what Live Wedding Art delivers.

The history of wedding paintings is a testament to the enduring importance of love and marriage in human society. From ancient Egypt to live art today, artists have celebrated this timeless subject in a variety of styles and mediums. As a Live Wedding Painter, I am honored to be a part of this rich tradition and to continue to capture the love, beauty, and joy of weddings through my live event paintings. Whether it's a traditional painting or a live performance, the beauty of wedding art is timeless, and it will continue to inspire and captivate us for generations to come.

As an artist who has been a part of the Live Wedding Art trend, I can confidently say that it's a trend that's worth considering for your special day. It's a beautiful and personal way to commemorate your wedding day, and it's a unique experience that your guests will never forget.

So, If you are planning a wedding and want to add a touch of magic to your big day, with something truly special, I invite you to consider the beauty of live wedding art. It will not only create a beautiful memory for you and your partner but also provide an interactive and entertaining experience for your guests.

Let's work together to make your wedding day a masterpiece that you will cherish for a lifetime. Contact me today to learn more about how Live Wedding Art can enhance your special day.

566 views0 comments


bottom of page