Title: The Kiss
Author: Gustav Klimt (Baumgarten, Austrian Empire, July 14, 1862 – Vienna, Austria-Hungary, February 6, 1918)
Genre: Genre art
Movement: Art Nouveau, Symbolism, Modern art, Vienna Secession
Technique: Oil and gold leaf on canvas
Dimension: 180 cm x 180 cm (height x width)
Location: Austrain Gallery Belvedere, Vienna
What makes art so successful?
If an artwork’s success could be measured by the number of times it is produced, then the most successful painting would be in Austria now.
In Vienna, there is one almost perfect square painting; however, people forget its original shape since it was reproduced numerous times. Nevertheless, it is one of the most recognizable images in art history, and an artwork embraces timeless elegance. It is none other than Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, hanging on the wall of the Belvedere Museum!
Even though we have a chance to see The Kiss anyplace, how well do you know this work of art?
Have you any idea that Gustav Klimt had been invited to the University of Vienna to create paintings based on medical themes, and yet have you ever noticed that eye-catching figures on the woman's dress in The Kiss could be nothing but Petri dishes?
If your answer carries even the slightest doubt, let’s get to grasp all the essential and compelling details of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss together!
THE KISS – ONE OF THE ICONS OF THE MODERN ART
Having a good day? Got anything planned for this afternoon? If not, come and join us; we will embark on our little trip to Vienna.
As we hurried on our way to get to the Belvedere Museum, which houses the most significant Austrian art collection, we found ourselves thinking about what makes great art great. Then, we entered the ornate room on the first floor, filled with art pieces that could answer this question.
We have our eyes on one of the paintings that came out in the hands of Gustav Klimt, pioneer a style known for its rich patterns and gleaming gold and famous not only for his glowing, erotic artworks but also for the controversy they sparked. As one calls us to come closer, we are invigorated by our walk to the painting. And there it is! Before our very eyes, The Kiss is a landmark of modern painting and post-religious age in an eclectic style!
The Kiss is still infinitely infinitely ambiguous!
The more you try to know The Kiss, the mystical it gets. However, even though it was truly seen, the mystery of its true story is incomplete since Gustav Klimt had never confirmed or denied it, as you find below.
“I have the gift of neither the spoken nor the written word, especially if I have to say something about myself or my work. Whoever wants to know something about me -as an artist, the only notable thing- ought to look carefully at my pictures and try and see in them what I am and what I want to do.”Gustav Klimt
I could not help but wonder why we drown in this ambiguity. Is it because of gold? Is it because of an embrace or the actual Kiss?
Let’s attempt to get to know The Kiss better by looking at its meaning, though!
WHAT IS THE MEANING BEHIND THE KISS?
The Kiss is a secular icon of sublime, an earthly image of the religious idea. The Kiss is a genuine depiction of human fulfillment, powerful embrace, and much more. Likewise, it is the heady mix of sensuality and indulgence, the outstanding balance between the striking geometric ornamentation and the figures with distinctive and deliberate shapes.
Undoubtedly, the main artwork of Klimt’s Golden Phase!
THE KISS PAINTING ANALYSIS
Art Nouveau The Kiss
The Kiss mirrors the fashionable taste for Art Nouveau, which was the prevailing style of Klimt. To clarify, Art Nouveau was characterized by a preference for stylized forms, sinuous and linear patterns. Above all, Art Nouveau placed more emphasis on decoration than on realism is evident in the Kiss, which is not only from the amorphous shape of the lovers’ robes but also from the unrealistic dimensions of the woman. Likewise, this is well disguised by loads of decorative detail surrounding the lovers in The Kiss.
What Colours Did Gustav Klimt Use?
Gustav Klimt dominated the art scene in the early 1900s. Nothing evokes this glorious era more effectively than Klimt’s ”Golden Period” paintings. Though he is predominantly renowned for his liberal use of gold, Klimt also often employed a radiant range of colors in his compositions.
In his golden phase paintings, Gustav Klimt developed a new and almost unique method that let him apply natural, wafer-thin gold leaf onto the canvas. With this technique, gold leaf and a bright golden bronze color splendidly blend into a single entity, which Klimt delivered an excellent, innovative contribution to the European Art Nouveau. In addition to gold leaf, Klimt also applied fine silver flakes to some areas of the painting.
What Can You See in The Kiss?
Two Passionate Lovers Like One Living Organism
The Kiss illustrates the two passionate lovers wearing lavish golden robes are locked together in a way that is so absorbed in each other that they are no longer aware of anything beyond their own passion in the field of flowers on what seems to be a cliff and the embrace appears to take place beside abyss with woman’s feet dangling over the edge in The Kiss painting.
Could it be possible for Klimt to imply that merging love and passion is precarious?
As in Klimt’s other versions of this subject, the man’s face is largely hidden from view. However, his virile power is conveyed by his robust, bull-necked appearance and by the way that his huge hands dwarf those of his partner. He also wears a crown of ivy, a plant sacred to the Greek god Dionysus and the satyrs.
The woman, in contrast, is entirely passive. She is full-frontal but horizontal. Her passivity accepting the mans’ kiss eyes are closed, likely in pleasure. However, her ashen complexion and the painfully horizontal tilt of her head may have been inspired by the theme of the severed head, which was fashionable in Symbolist art.
Lastly, Gustav Klimt was obsessed with sex, and women are even visible in The Kiss’s very shape. Significantly, he had a fixation with redheads. So it is no surprise the woman in The Kiss has red hair.
Bed of Flowers
Klimt used to relax by painting landscapes. These were highly unconventional, focusing primarily on densely packed areas of brightly colored flowers. In part, the inspiration for these came from his studio garden, which he allowed to run wild, but they are also reminiscent of the floral decoration found in early tapestries. In The Kiss, the flowery bank provides a platform for lovers, enhancing the air of opulent fantasy. It seems as exotic and unreal as the shimmering, golden background in its way.
The Feet of The Woman
The woman is kneeling while her partner appears standing, suggesting that she is considerably taller than him. Gustav Klimt portrayed their limbs as quite distorted. The hands are large, while their fingers and toes seem twisted and deformed, reflecting the Expressionist style. Similarly, the woman’s right hand and the unseen right arm are also highly awkward.
The Man’s Robe
When it comes to the man’s robe, Klimt applied other symbolic motifs to differentiate between the lovers’ robes. Klimt decorated the man’s attire with simple rectangular shapes colored black, white, and silver which symbolize masculinity.
As you can see, these luxurious patterns on the man’s clothing resulted from Gustav Klimt’s experimenting with abstract and figurative elements. In his artworks, visible figures were nothing, but the lover’s hands and faces in vividly and the women’s shoulders and feet, as in The Kiss, and precisely figures’ outlines were obscured.
PETRI DISHES ON THE WOMAN’S ROBE IN THE KISS
As we move on to the other detail, The woman’s robe shows a striking contrast to her partner’s. In addition, Klimt composed golden decoration as small circular forms linked by thin wavy lines; however, the most intriguing figures on her frock are larger glamorous rondels with an array of smaller circles. Some presume they would echo the flowers beneath the lover’s feet. Some believe they are meant to be Petri dishes with cells.
When you consider that the year Gustav Klimt painted The Kiss, you were more likely to encounter the terms of platelets and blood cells since they were so common in Vienna, especially around the University of Vienna. Gustav Klimt had been invited to come out with paintings subject to medical themes.
As far as I can tell, if you look closely at the repetitive chains of circles in The Kiss, you would feel that might be Petri dishes also, wouldn’t you?
The Loss of Philosophy
If you want to see Klimt’s controversial paintings for the University of Vienna, you’re out of luck. They don’t survive anymore. After the brouhaha with the Ministry of Education, the paintings were acquired by private collectors. Then, when Germany took over Austria in the 1930s, the Nazi government “appropriated” them for the state.
Later in the war, the works were moved to Schloss Immerhof, a remote castle, for safekeeping, but as Allied forces moved into the area in 1945, retreating SS troops set fire to the castle rather than allow it to fall into enemy hands. The paintings were destroyed.
WHAT INSPRIED THE KISS BY GUSTAV KLIMT?
The most significant influence on Gustav Klimt came from the Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna, Italy. Ravenna is known for its well-preserved late Roman and Byzantine architecture. The Ravenna mosaics also reinforced Klimt’s conviction that his compositions look more imposing and reminiscent when he set against his art a golden background. Even at your first glance at The Kiss, you sense the transcendence of Klimt’s use of gold, which makes you think of the Byzantine tradition.
WHO IS THE WOMAN IN THE KISS PAINTING?
The identity of the two people in the painting “The Kiss” is often debated. Klimt himself made no statement on the subject. However, many suspect that it is the artist’s self-portrait and his lifelong partner, Emilie Flöge.
Emilie Flöge was an assured, modern woman who ran a successful fashion salon in Vienna. Moreover, she was by Klimt’s side on all official vacations. Therefore, the scene we are looking at could be reminiscent of those pleasant days in their holiday home on the Attersee, where Gustav and Emilie spent each summer.
But on the other hand, there is no evidence or any source about this statement. In fact, Gustav Klimt did not create any portraits of himself more often than not. Therefore, he might not intend to show any real people in this painting at all. After all, this painting is supposed to be understood as a common allegory of love, making a universally valid statement on this primary theme of human life.
Eventually, Klimt conveyed this message unquestionably, evidenced by the painting’s worldwide fame and almost iconic standing by connecting with art lovers directly and emotionally.
HOW DID THE BELVEDERE MUSEUM GET THE KISS?
The Austrian state bought The Kiss for the recently founded Moderne Galerie, housed at the Lower Belvedere, with the most extensive single collection of paintings by Gustav Klimt, from the Vienna Kunstschau exhibition, which The Kiss was shown for the first time in 1908. The painting has been in Belvedere’s collections ever since.
Everybody has a desire to love and to be loved. It might be the reason why we feel satisfaction when we look at Gustav Klimt's most significant artwork called The Kiss, a human fulfillment image of a perfect union between man and woman, with both merging together.
Letting you with Klimt’s quotes;
“There’s nothing remarkable to be seen in me. I am a painter, one who paints every day from morning till evening.”Gustav Klimt
Last but not least, if you are into art, we will have a blast seeing you here. I hope every art-related thing will find you; see you in our following review. ????✌
Discover the largest collection of Klimt paintings at the Belvedere here.
Also, you can check out the video by the Belvedere Museum on Gustav Klimt below.
The Belvedere Palace Map
"To every age its art, to every art its freedom"