The Kiss Gustav Klimt The Kiss is a work that was painted by the Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt, between the years 1907 and 1908. Klimt utilizes his personal experiences and life changes as his inspiration for the creation of perhaps his most famous work yet. He links modernity and eroticism at the center of his work, the couple’s embrace. This embrace is a quintessential expression of one of the deepest passions known to mankind, sensual love. Klimt’s color choices, use of depth, line, and balance, are all techniques that contribute to the message he is trying to convey.
This couple’s love radiates passion at its strongest, the love between man and woman, and the disconnect from reality they experience as they embrace. In order to understand the meaning behind The Kiss, one must know a little bit about the artist’s history. Klimt was born on July 14, 1862 in Baumgarten near Vienna. He studied architectural painting at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts. By 1880, Klimt and his brother collaborated and began working together. As a result, they garnered the attention of many new clients. Eventually, Klimt embarked on his own career path and started his professional painting career.
He began by painting interior murals and ceilings in large public areas. In 1888, Klimt was even awarded for the murals he painted in Burg Theater. This particular mural portrayed the Golden Order of Orders from the empire of Franz Josef I of Austria. Klimt’s success and joy was quickly followed by tremendous grief when his brother and father tragically passed away, leaving him financially responsible for his family. As a result of this tragedy, Klimt’s art began to reflect the sadness and difficulty he was experiencing in his personal life.
He continued on this path for a while, until he created The Kiss. Some say this painting was his magnum opus, his greatest work. Society immediately fell in love with his work, and he quickly regained his success. In this work, Klimt illustrates two figures, one male and one female. They are entangled in what seems to be a passionate embrace at the center of the work. Their love immediately becomes the focal point. Their gilded clothing beams as it pulls the viewer deeper into the center of the painting, the very essence of work, the kiss itself.
It quickly lets the viewer know that this is the main focus of the painting. The entanglement of shapes initially blends the lovers’ bodies into one, exposing only their hands, feet, and faces. However, when more closely examined, the viewer can see that there is a separation. Klimt uses rectangles and squares on the male figure, and more rounded and circular shapes on the female figure. So in spite of the fact that the figures are intertwined, and almost seem as one, the variations of the geometric rectangles and the organic flower pattern illustrates each figure as a separate entity.
This juxtaposition between jagged and soft can also be viewed as a metaphorical representation of the contrast between the rough nature of man versus the sensitive nature of woman. Their tight embrace clearly expresses sensuality and intimacy, the powerful connection that only lovers can experience. This power is enhanced by Klimt’s use of color. Just as he juxtaposes contrasting jagged and soft shapes, he creates contrast through the juxtaposition of earth tones and vibrant colors against a golden background. Despite the array of colors and shapes that make up the majority of the painting, the focal point remains distinct.
As mentioned previously, their emotion radiates. The couple’s faces are essentially all that is needed to portray Klimt’s message. Their positions create an extra element of interest within the painting. The man’s face is hidden, and only a quarter view is shown. This indicates a euphoric state as he is lost in the bewilderment of love. The women’s face, however, is in full view. Her expression reveals a sense of tranquility and satisfaction. Her eyes are closed as she allows herself to enter into this euphoric state as well.
Her cheeks are flushed, hinting a climactic moment in her embrace with her lover. Color and technique is another major aspect of The Kiss. In creating this painting, Klimt gained inspiration from his travels to the Byzantine, the mosaics in Ravenna in particular. This inspiration is reflected in his use of gold and the arrangement of shapes. While the majority of the painting was done using golden hues (he uses actual gold leaf to achieve this affect), Klimt manages to apply all of the colors necessary to achieve intrigue and convey his message clearly.
He uses vibrant colors such as; blue, purple, and green in the flowerbed. He strategically uses the gold by integrating it into the robes and vines that swathe over the figures and over the woman’s feet. He continues his theme of contrast and juxtaposition in his use of complimentary colors. The green in the flowerbed contrasts with the red in the woman’s dress, making her dominate and stand out. This contrast is even shown in the skin tones of the figures. The man has an olive complexion and the woman has a peach complexion, making her stand out even more.
An additional component is Klimt’s use of depth. He uses a variety of sizes among his shapes to emphasize the curves of the figures’ bodies. The flowerbed beneath the figures indicates Klimt’s use of perspective. He allows the line of grass to blur, giving the illusion of space. The Kiss remains unique, unlike most of Klimt’s other work. Unlike the portrayal of women as femme fatales in his other paintings, Klimt portrays the woman in The Kiss as the protagonist. This is illustrated through the full view of her face, as well as the color of her complexion.
Since the male is painted in deeper hues, it gives him a more dominant role. This is also illustrated by the way he stands over the kneeling woman and how he pulls her face over towards him. As one of Klimt’s most famous paintings, The Kiss is arguably a perfect composition of shape, color, line, and scale. Unfortunately, I have not had the privilege of seeing The Kiss in person, yet I still felt the intensity and passion that is illustrated in the painting. I was originally drawn to research this particular work because of its color and beauty.
Only once I began to dissect the painting’s individual attributes did I discover that it is so much more than just a beautiful painting. It is a representation of love, the most passionate emotion of all. What originally began as awe and reverence for the artist, became envy towards the lovers. It makes me long to experience passion and love as the couple does in Klimt’ work. His genius is evident in his technique, but more so, in his ability to evoke an emotional response in the viewer.