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“Love Locked Out” by Anna Lea Merritt

Anna Lea Merritt-Love locked out
“Love Locked Out” by Anna Lea Merritt

“Love Locked Out” by Anna Lea Merritt is the artist’s best-known work, and in memory of her late husband, who died in 1877, just three months after their wedding. Cupid, the mythology god of love, is shown here trying to force open the door of a mausoleum. Merritt feared the subject of her painting would be misinterpreted. She wrote in her memoir:

“I feared people liked it as a symbol of forbidden love, while my Love was waiting for the door of death to open and the reunion of the lonely pair”.

The depiction of the male nude by a female artist was controversial in late nineteenth-century London. Merrit received favourable reviews by choosing to paint a child and not an adult. Children, she believed, were less conscious of nudity.

Anna Massey Lea Merritt painted portraits, landscapes and religious scenes and etchings. She was born in Philadelphia but lived and worked in England for most of her life. Merritt worked as a professional artist for most of her adult life. Merritt had intended to end her professional career as a painter after her wedding, but she returned to painting after her husband’s death. “Love Locked Out” became the first painting by a woman artist acquired for the British National Collection.


  • What is your interpretation of this painting?
  • If the figure represents Cupid, then why was it painted without wings?

Love Locked Out

  • Title:                Love Locked Out
  • Artist:              Anna Lea Merritt
  • Year:                1890
  • Medium:          Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:    145 cm × 930 cm (57 in × 370 in)
  • Museum:          Tate Britain

Anna Lea Merritt

  • Name:          Anna Lea Merritt (Born: Anna Massey Lea)
  • Born:            1844 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Died:            1930 (aged 85) – Dorset, England
  • Nationality:  American
  • Notable Works


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Photo Credit: John Singer Sargent [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons