“The Last Kiss” is an artwork created by the Chinese style Feng, depicting Chinese signs and a Chinese mother giving away her baby, which indicate that the action takes place in China. This essay will analyze the painting based on its subject, interpretation, style, context and emotion.
The subject matter suggests a scene of a mother placing her baby in a baby box. The sign above the baby box, where the mother puts the baby indicates that there is an office, or an official institution that takes the baby from the mother. Next to the baby box, close to the woman departing from her baby, there is a female dog feeding her puppies.
When interpreting the painting there are few elements that should be considered. Primarily, the female dog feeds her babies, while the female human leaves hers. Because it lives on the street, the female dog does not have a good situation, or stable living conditions to afford keeping her babies. However, the dog keeps its babies, feeds them and cares for them, as the motherly look suggests. On the other hand, signs of poverty can be observed at the human mother, because her clothes have patches and her dressing style is quite poor. But unlike the dog, who keeps its babies despite her poverty, the mother gives up her baby. Like this, she does not take the risk of not being able to provide for her child. On the other hand, she takes the risk of placing her baby in the hands of foreign people, discharging from the baby’s fate. The painting suggests that the dog is more motherly than the human mother, because, despite the hardships of poverty that they both face, only the female dog chooses to keep her babies, while the human mother chooses to abandon hers.
The Feng artistic style is characterized by irony that is aimed at producing both a subtle humor and criticizing the society. This style is visible in “The Last Kiss”, as the author of the painting criticizes the humanity for its lack of kindness and sacrifice power, comparing humans with dogs for suggesting that the animals are more caring than the humans. However, the painting is not producing humorous effects, because it speaks about the cruelty of humans that choose to abandon their children in the hands of unknown people.
The context when the painting is created is also important for understanding the painting. The poverty in China is a fact. It affects millions of people every day for centuries. Individuals are not able to feed themselves and often face malnutrition, due to scarce resources. The society it is to blame, according to this painting, because it allows a dog to survive and take care of its babies, but it forces a human mother to leave her new born baby. The society it is to blame because it does not allow the humans means to survive and to take care of their children, but also it is to blame because it permits people to consider that the abandon is permissive.
The painting reveals emotions that condemn the human for abandoning her baby and condemn the society for encouraging abandon because of poverty. It also inspires admiration for the female dog and her loyalty to her babies.
Overall, the painting is a critic brought to the Chinese society and its poverty that forces mothers to abandon their babies. It is also a condemnation brought to humans, suggesting that dogs are more devoted to their motherly feelings and care for their puppies despite the poverty that affects both humans and animals.
The Last Kiss Final Analysis
The subject matter in “The Last Kiss” is the abandon. A mother is depicted in the moment when she gives the last kiss to her baby, as she prepares to leave him to an orphanage. The Chinese inscription that lays above the box in which the woman introduces the baby signals the orphanage, a state institution that the woman accesses for leaving her baby behind. The female dog lying on the walls of the orphanage refers to the maternal feelings of the dog who keeps her puppies, in contrast with the woman who abandons her baby.
The woman that leaves her baby in the baby box at the orphanage is poorly dressed, wearing patched clothes. Next to her, the dog who feeds her puppies is skinny and sloppy. As the human mother gives a last kiss to her baby before abandoning him, the female dog mother watches over her puppies with care, as she feeds them.
The last kiss that the woman gives to her baby indicates that the woman loves her baby, yet, she does not have sufficient power to feed and to care for her child. Her patched clothes also suggest the woman’s poor economic condition, which announce the child’s future condition if she would have kept him. In abandoning her child, the woman leaves him at the mercy of foreigners. However, this not guarantee the fact that the baby’s fate will be better if he grows up in the orphanage than if he would be kept and nurtured by his natural mother. The woman’s abandon can also be interpreted as a sign of cowardice, as the mother gives up her maternal rights, feeling incapable of taking care of him.
On the other hand, the female dog that feeds her puppies suggests maternal devotion, which contrasts the woman’s cowardice in leaving her new – born baby. The fact that the dog is skinny and sloppy indicates that it is a stray dog, living in poverty, just as the human mother. Nevertheless, she does not abandon her puppies as the woman does, but nurtures them, keeping watching over them with motherly love.
The last kiss that the woman gives to her baby could be perceived as a hypocritical act, intended to transmit motherly love when in fact it solely represents the kiss of separation. The female dog, however, shows its affection with a constant care for her babies, providing them with the milk that her body produces and the warmth that her body emits.
Feng Zikai’s artistic style combines the traditionalist line of ink painting with the modern cartooning, grasping social observations that are representative for his work (Krischer “The Art of Feng Zikai”). Elements of social observation can be recognized in “The Last Kiss”, as the artist reveals the poverty of the Chinese people, faced with abandoning their babies for lack of possibilities to support them. Zikai’s art also includes irony and subtle humor (Chinawriter.com “Last Kiss”). While the irony is visible in the analyzed painting through the motherly kiss that announces abandon and the female dog, which cares for her puppies, demonstrating more motherly feelings than the woman, the painting is not humorous, because there is nothing comic in an abandon.
Feng Zikai has lived between 1898 and 1975 and his work might be a reflection of his social context, condemned by the communist ruling during the artist’s life (Krischer “The Art of Feng Zikai”). China’s poverty rates have always been high, reflecting the improper resource management in the most populous country in the world. The high poverty levels that affects an important part of China’s population pushes many parents to abandon their babies in orphanages (Iaccino: “China: More than 82 Million People”).
The image of the skinny female dog feeding her puppies in a relaxed position, as it carefully watches over them conveys feelings of compassion for her sacrifice, but also admiration for her power of carrying for her babies despite her humble condition. On the other hand, the woman leaving her baby at the orphanage does not transmit a feeling of sadness, despite her last kiss, which is rather an official form that indicates the end of parenting. The inscription above the baby box in which the woman places her baby suggests an impersonal attitude in the process of placing one’s baby in an orphanage.
The ink painting style suggests a sketch, close to a caricature that mocks the Chinese society for keeping its population in poverty and condemns it for encouraging the abandon, as a normal, impersonal, institutional act. The contrast between the woman who abandons her baby and the female dog that keeps and nurtures her puppies is the key message of this painting, indicating the artist’s cynicism for humanity, based on his observations upon the Chinese society. The loss of motherhood feelings among humans is treated as a consequence of social organization, which lacks in the stray dogs’ world, as they still possess motherly love.
Chinawriter.com. Last Kiss. N.d. Online < http://www.chinawriter.com.cn/2007/2007-01-11/47826.html>. 21 January 2016.
Iaccino, Ludovica. China: More than 82 Million People Living Below Poverty Line. 26 October 2014. Online. < http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/china-more-82-million-people-live-below-poverty-line-1470313>. 21 January 2016.
Krischer, Olivier. The Art of Feng Zikai. N.d. Online < http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/80/TheArtOfFengZikaiFengZikai>. 21 January 2016.