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The golden touch of a kiss

"Either I am too old, or too nervous, or too stupid - there must be something wrong", Klimt once wrote in a letter. Though facing continuous difficulties in his work, in the years 1907 and 1908 the painter created a centrepiece of the Jugendstil movement: The Kiss.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt © Belvedere Vienna

»...because I fear and respect true love.« Gustav Klimt

 

A pair of lovers, united through a kiss: A theme that occupied Gustav Klimt throughout his career. 1907 Klimt began to draw this theme up again – and ended up with the most famous work of his entire oeuvre and marking the culmination of the Europen Jugendstil movement: "The Kiss".


The inspiration for a masterpiece

In all of Gustav Klimt's works the elements of colour, form, and line free themselves from representational narrative, developing into symbols and abstractions in their own right.

Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze” (1902), reflecting his increased emphasis on ornamentation and the use of gold leaf, represented an important artistic precursor to his most famous painting.

When Klimt visited Ravenna during his travels through Italy in 1903, he was introduced to the world of Byzantine mosaics, paving the way for his “Golden Phase”, culminating in "The Kiss".


Who is she?

There have been numerous attempts to identify the woman portrayed in The Kiss. Those mentioned have included Klimt’s life-long partner Emilie Flöge, but also Adele Bloch-Bauer. The subject’s well-proportioned facial features reveal a similarity to many of the women that Klimt portrayed, but ultimately they cannot be unequivocally attributed to a particular person.


A sacred golden sphere

In the painting a couple is depicted embracing in a field of flowers. The man bent over the woman, she, clinging tightly to him, awaiting his kiss. The male figure is characterized by square and rectangular forms, while the female’s soft lines and floral patterns are dominant. A golden halo surrounds the couple, but it ends at the bare feet of the female, whose toes are sharply bent and firmly dug into the flower-covered meadow.

At the same time, however, the couple seems to have shaken off this last remnant of earthly weight. It seems they have been transported into another infinite, almost sacred sphere, reminiscent indeed of the gold background of Byzantine mosaics.

When Klimt presented the painting to the public for the first time, in 1908, it was acquired – still unfinished – directly from the exhibition by the Austrian Gallery. This painting represents the centrepiece of the world’s largest collection of works by Gustav Klimt, located in the Austrian Gallery in Vienna’s Upper Belvedere Palace.