• Ujjwala Singh

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

Painted during his Golden Period, Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss still stands as one of the most ethereal paintings witnessed by the art world over the years. Through the gold leaf detailing noticed in many of his paintings during this time, including Judith and the Head of Holofernes (1901) and Water Serpents I (1904), Klimt manages to intensify the elegance he wishes to portray through these works.

The ambiguity and mystery of love was explored heavily in the Golden Epoch phase, wherein several ornamental pieces of art were created to understand the depth of human emotions. The theme of love and intimacy has been explored by Klimt in many of his works. However, The Kiss is one of his most recognized pieces and is also the last in which he used gold embellishments.

As founder and the first president of the Vienna Secession movement, Klimt had faced a lot of criticism by the more conservative elements of society, with individuals going to the extent of calling his works pornographic. This particular piece depicts a couple upon a patch of wildflowers with the man leaning in to kiss his lover. A sense of peace and tranquillity is felt in the gentle way in which the woman’s eyes are closed while she embraces her partner, and the piece in itself offers a sense of tenderness and warmth to its viewers.

The identity of Klimt’s muse in this composition has been a topic of discussion for a long time, and many believe that Emilie Floge, an Austrian fashion designer and businesswoman, was the inspiration behind the art. As for the inspiration behind the style of the piece, most opine that Klimt was stimulated by his trip to Ravenna, where he was introduced to Byzantine mosaics. The bold deterrence from socially acceptable artwork defined Klimt’s works, and this controversial piece went on to become one of the most acclaimed works of art. With its various intricacies, The Kiss continues to fascinate everyone that happens upon it and remains one of the first to open society’s mind to more explicit art.

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