Nowadays, Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” stands among the most romantic artworks ever painted in the world. However, it hasn’t always been so.
Painted at the height of the artist’s “Golden Period,” the Kiss features the embrace of couple that was once considered to be pornography. While the image of the entwined couple is hardly perverse according to today’s standards, in the early 1900s it was less romantic, and racier, in the minds’ of many critics. That said, the tender scene is a loving look into romance and the beauty of human passion.
Klimt was seen as a controversial figure. His explorations of human relationships was considered very ‘modern’ at the time. His work was often considered too erotic and sexual and his symbolism too deviant. Much of his most erotic outpourings can be seen in his pencil sketches. But enough made it onto canvas to cement his reputation.
He believed that no institution or person had the right of censorship over his work. His work is a synthesis of both the decorative and sumptuous Art Nouveau and Symbolism.
“Enough of censorship……I want to break free”
“The Kiss” shows the man and woman sharing joy - symbolically dissolving in an embrace. They stand against a background of beautiful decoration, which is flecked with the golden leaves. The gold background is not incidental, Klimt’s father was a gold engraver by trade. He had also learned mosaic techniques, fresco and oil painting. This influence is seen in the carpet of flowers. The gold is very like the mosaic found in Byzantine churches: Klimt was very much influenced by Italian mosaics he saw in Ravenna.
The couple: each wears individual, highly decorated gowns. The difference in the gowns is important. The man’s is of a more geometric patterns consisting of black and white ‘masculine’ shapes. By contrast, the woman’s is flowery – tying her visually to the carpet of flowers she kneels on and linking her to ‘mother nature’. Her gown does contain a little of the geometric pattern which unites her and symbolizes her unity with the male. Klimt loves hands and uses them expressively in his paintings. A golden envelope embraces them, symbolically uniting the sexes. His work featured many of the grand themes of life, love, sex, birth conception, philosophy and death. His favorite subject was women.
Some critics even say that "The Kiss" is the greatest painting ever, better than even the Mona Lisa: "Unlike the Mona Lisa, which disappoints when you confront it... 'The Kiss' by Gustav Klimt surpasses expectations. It does what a great piece of art is supposed to do: hold your gaze, make you admire its aesthetic qualities while trying to discern what’s beyond its superficial aspects."
Gustav Klimt paintings are amongst the best-selling prints, posters and canvases gracing living rooms, bedrooms and offices the world over. We hope you’ve enjoyed our facts about Gustav Klimt and we’ve inspired you to own some Gustav Klimt art for yourself.