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The Kiss: a Romantic Moment on Canvas, by Gustav Klimt

Updated on March 3, 2012
The Kiss
The Kiss | Source

The Artist: Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt is a leader of Austrian Modernism and at the same time one of the most known artists that represents Art Nouveau movement. His use of color and photorealistic depiction of human figure in his paintings has earned him a world-wide appreciation. Vibrant gold and unique flowing patterns have made his art recognizable and unforgettable. The Kiss is probably one of his most famous creations that is admired and appreciated long after his death; it brings up the best of what once was New Art, and today is a part of everyday life.

It is interesting to notice that “The Kiss” is life size image and its dimensions (180 cm x 180 cm) add to the effect it has on the viewer. It is not surprising to see this size painting as one of the Klimt’s works, since his training encouraged him to work on a big scale by providing him with commissions in architectural decoration.

What do we see?

The Kiss (1907) became the most famous of the Klimt’s works. A man and a woman are joined in a sweet, intimate moment. The figures are placed in the center of the painting; he is leaning to give her that kiss and she is accepting it with shyness and bright blushing cheeks. Their hands holding on to each other tenderly as the embraces them. The flowers form an amazing ornament and the rest of the background seem to step away to let the main figures take over the whole attention of the viewer. Curvilinear patterns, naturalistic motives and romantic atmosphere prove to be consistent with the Art Nuoveou style, and contribute to that special moment the artist is trying to portray.

Gold was always favored by Klimt, and it finds its place in The Kiss serving as a base color of the couples’ robes, it draws immediate attention to the couple and unites them as one. The pattern, however, seem to carry on a special symbolic meaning, as males robes are covered with straight, heavy and dark rectangular shapes, and woman’s robe yields traditional feminine round shapes. The detail does not attempt to provide a three-dimensional space, but rather serves decorational purpose.

Art Nouveau in architecture: Casa Batlló, Barcelona by Gaudi
Art Nouveau in architecture: Casa Batlló, Barcelona by Gaudi | Source

The Kiss is a perfect example of Art Nouveau

As new artistic approaches were emerging at the turn of the 19th century, one of the styles became known as Art Nouveau. It was characterized by an extensive use of nature as its primary source for inspiration. Curvilinear and organic forms took over the canvas, and repetitive patterns along with new techniques, such as stained glass, made it stand out from other artistic streams. Sculpture and architecture were affected by this “new art” and became welcomed all over the world, including Great Britain, Austria, France, Germany, Spain and the United States. Louis Comfort Tiffany brought it into every day living, using Art Nouveau principles to create unique stain glass pieces, and the impact he had on the interior design can hardly be underestimated. New furniture, new home accessories, new way of looking at your own house was brought to life by a new form of art. Very soon the new trend picked up speed and resulted in numerous new buildings with an unusual organic exterior.

Spanish architect Gaudi became known for his use of organic shapes in a large scale architecture. The columns in his buildings remind us of a bone-like structures, the balconies seem to be wrapped in numerous leaves, and a lot of details along with earthy colors make up a whole new perception of what a house supposed to look like. The building did not creating a feeling of heavy structure anymore, but rather seemed to be a structure created by nature itself. Its aesthetic quality appears to be as important to an architect as its functionality.

Farm Garden With Sunflowers, by Gustav Klimt
Farm Garden With Sunflowers, by Gustav Klimt | Source

How does The Kiss relate to Klimt's other works?

In the painting The Kiss, flowers create a vision that mimics many of other Klimt’s nature paintings, such as “Farm Garden With Sunflowers” (1905), “Roses Among the Trees” (1905), “Upper Austrian Farmhouse” (1911-12), and many others, while the golden triangles form floating garlands that cover her feet and fall onto the ground. These triangles were also used by Klimt in such paintings as "Working Cartoon for the Stoclet Frieze: Tree of Life with Bush” (1905-1911), as well as some other of his works, to add detail, and helped him create distinct pattern with a simple shape.

There is no surprise that The Kiss remains one of the favorites even today. Not only does it combine beautiful color, perfect proportion, and a well balanced composition, but it also speaks to our very basic human emotion. It draws us in with its romance and sensuality. It creates a fantasy of a perfect couple before our eyes and gives us a glimpse into a possibility of finding someone of our own to share that perfect kiss with.


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