The Kiss is Gustav Klimt’s magnum opus. A masterpiece of the Austrian symbolist movement, he painted the work during 1907 and 1908.
The Kiss is accepted as the most iconic oil painting which is instantly recognizable the world over.
Klimt embellished the oil-on-canvas painting with gold, silver and platinum leaf. Klimt loved adorning his works with precious metals, so much so, that scholars consequently referred to this time as his “Golden Period”.
First displayed in 1908 at the Kunstschau, Vienna, The Kiss was warmly received. This was in distinct opposition to the previous scandalized reaction to Klimt’s University of Vienna Ceiling paintings. Since destroyed, only fragments remain such as parts of the Medicine picture. At the time they were described as “perverted excess” but nonetheless engendered a certain fame and notoriety for the artist.
Initially titled Liebespaar (the lovers), this Gustav Klimt artwork depicts two bodies in a tight embrace. The two-dimensional figures recline against a gold backdrop, supported by a flowery meadow. Intriguingly for a double portrait, the man’s face isn’t fully visible. Akin to other works such as The Kiss (1859) by Francesco Hayez (a possible inspiration for Klimt) this focuses the audience’s attention purely on the act of love itself.
Inspiration for Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss painting came from the leading artistic movements of the day. For instance, the decorative detailing on the clothing references the Art Nouveau movement. In addition, the floral meadow base uses organic forms reminiscent of the earlier Arts and Crafts movement.
The Kiss painting is one of Klimt’s most popular works. It epitomizes the opulent fin-de-siecle spirit captured by the Vienna Secession artists. Klimt’s decadent approach was further inspired by the gold-leaf of medieval manuscripts and the decorative floral tendrils seen in classical Greek and Roman art.
Romantic intimacy frequently featured in Gustav Klimt paintings, as well as the Art Nouveau movement as a whole. As a reaction against traditional academic art, Gustav Klimt Art Nouveau paintings featured natural, sinuous shapes, as well as dynamic whiplash lines and elongated figures.
The Kiss was actually part of a wider exploration of similar themes by Klimt. Paintings such as Fulfillment (otherwise known as the Stoclet Frieze) play on similar designs and poses. Other artworks such as Hymn to Joy (1902) and Hope II (1907) similarly feature the recurring motif of elongated, highly decorated figures set against largely abstracted backdrops.
Critics believe the painting depicts Klimt himself, alongside his companion Emilie Flöge. Debates rage on the identity of the woman, however. Alternative interpretations suggest “Red Hilda” is more likely; a model who often sat for Klimt. Some argue the picture isn’t a direct representation of people, but instead shows the moment Apollo kisses Daphne in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Others believe it depicts the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice (representing the exact moment when Orpheus turns around and loses his love forever). This last interpretation is supported by the woman’s passive posture and slight translucency, suggesting her ultimate disappearance.
The Kiss remains one of the most popular Gustav Klimt reproductions, inspiring generations of art lovers ever since its inception.
Today, the original painting hangs in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere museum in Vienna.
Klimt paintings are available as oil painting reproductions from our extensive catalogue of popular paintings.
Klimt was not born into a wealthy family and aged 14 he attended The Vienna School of Arts and Crafts having won a Scholarship. Klimt led a somewhat bohemian existence and never married although it is said he fathered some 14 children and slept with every woman whose portrait he painted.
Klimt’s ornate and intricately decorated Golden Period paintings employ both silver and gold leaf.
Gustav Klimt The Kiss reproduction is by far his most popular painting. The Kiss expresses love and intimacy with a couple in a tender embrace on a foreground of multi-colored flowers and is considered one of the most famous romantic paintings.
The Kiss 1907 was created by Klimt during a low period in his career when he was full of self-doubt.
However, before The Kiss was completed it was sold to the Belvedere Museum Austria. In today’s terms, The Museum paid around $250,000 which vastly exceeds any amount paid for any work of art in Austria at that time. The Kiss 1907 is considered a national treasure by the Austrians and it attracts hundreds of thousands visitors a year to the Museum. The original painting is an impressively large square oil painting being 180cm x 180cm.
Although the female in the painting The Kiss has never been formally confirmed, she is believed to be Emily Floge, who was Klimt’s sister-in-law and also his lover. Klimt painted a Portrait of Emily Floge in 1902
Art Nouveau Art Movement artist Gustav Klimt was a leading member of the Vienna Secession Movement. Many Gustav Klimt oil paintings were purchased by famous Jewish patrons of the arts prior to the Second World War but were later confiscated by the Nazis.
After extensive litigation in New York, Gustav Klimt’s painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer 1907, was just one of five paintings which the relatives of Adele Bloch Bauer managed to have returned to them from the State of Austria. Whilst many of the paintings were sold at auction, Portrait of Adele Bloche-Bauer was sold to the Ronald Lauder Collection, the son of cosmetics company founder Estee Lauder, for $135 million in 2006.
The Stoclet Frieze comprises three panels and makes a major contribution to Art Nouveau and the Secessionist Movement. The Tree of Life sits in the center, whilst to the left is Expectation and to the right Fulfillment. The small geometric form of Stoclet Frieze Patterns sits in the same location of the dining room at Stoclet Palace which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009.
Klimt’s brother Ernest married Helene Floge, the sister of Emily Floge and many of Klimt’s landscape paintings were completed whilst he was staying at Schloss Kammer on Lake Attersee in Austria, the home of the Floge family. Schloss Kammer on the Attersee IV 1910 is held in a Private Collection. Litzlberg am Attersee c1915 was sold in 2011 for just over $40m. On Lake Attersee 1900 is part of the Leopold Museum Collection and is a popular Gustav Klimt reproduction.
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