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“The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt

The Kiss - Gustav Klimt - Google Cultural Institute

“The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt shows a couple embracing, their bodies entwined in elaborately decorated robes. The couple is kneeling at the edge of a flowery meadow. The work is composed of oil paint with applied layers of gold leaf, a feature that gives it it’s modern and memorable appearance. The painting is considered a masterpiece of the early modern period and a symbol of Viennese Art Nouveau.

The Kiss is a vibrant and sensuous image which was a reaction to the academic art of the 19th century. It was inspired by natural forms, particularly the curved lines of plants and flowers. Klimt’s use of gold leaf echoes medieval gold paintings and illuminated manuscripts, and earlier mosaics. Klimt travelled to Venice and Ravenna, which are both famous for their beautiful mosaics and which inspired his gold technique and his Byzantine imagery.

Mosaics of Theodora - Joy of Museums - Basilica of San Vitale

Byzantine Mosaics from Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy 

On his square canvas, Klimt positioned the man’s head at the top of the painting, a departure from traditional Western styles and reflects the influence of Japanese prints, as does the very simplified composition.  The man wears a crown of vines and a robe with black and white rectangles irregularly placed on gold leaf decorated with spirals. The woman wears a tight-fitting dress with oval flower motifs on a background of parallel wavy lines, and her hair is sprinkled with flowers.

Gustav Klimt was a symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt’s primary subject was the female body, and eroticism marks his works. Klimt was influenced by Japanese art and its methods and achieved success with the paintings of his “golden phase”, many of which include gold leaf. “The Kiss” is Klimt’s most famous painting.

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                The Kiss
  • Artist:              Gustav Klimt
  • Created:          1908
  • Medium:         Oil and gold leaf on canvas
  • Dimensions:   180 cm × 180 cm
  • Museum:        Österreichische Galerie Belvedere

Artist:

  • Name:            Gustav Klimt
  • Born:             1862 – Baumgarten, Austrian Empire
  • Died:              1918 (aged 55) – Vienna, Austria-Hungary
  • Nationality:  Imperial Austrian
  • Movement:   Symbolism, Art Nouveau
  • Notable work:

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“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit 1) Gustav Klimt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons ) JOM