The Kiss by Gustav Klimt



In the art exhibition of 1908, there was a painting on display in a room reserved for Klimt’s pictures. This painting was entitled, ‘Lovers’ by Klimt himself but is generally known today as ‘The Kiss’. Ludwig Hevesi, a critic of the time says, “This Klimt hhall at the exhibition is the most remarkable assortment seen in Vienna since Markart’s Dumba Room. A purely painterly painting (The Kiss), not possible before markart, a specific phenomena of color.....THe Modern Gallery’s new lovers standin a sea of flowers, like Homer’s old Zeus on Mount Ida when hera embracd him once more and a carpet of flowers broke forht from the eart. And the lovers wear festive robes, just right for a festival of love. The whole world is festive again....The special Viennese modulation of feeling, newly arrived, is at long last to be recognized as the peoplpe begin to discover there’s a place iin thier heart’s for Klimt. Not long now and he’ll be ‘our Klimt’.”

Hevesi compared Klimt to Makart, Vienna had a new prince of painters. ‘The Kiss’ did not presesnt society with a scandal, as so many of Klimt’s previous pictures had. On the contrary, the picture was recieved with enthusiasm frm the beginning, as is shown by how quickly it sold. It has remained one of Klimt’s most famous pieces of work, and has also become a symbol of the Vienna Jugendstil.

‘The Kiss’, at a glance represents happiness and love. Loked at more closely, with its precursors in mind, it reveals other components. In 1895, twelve years prior to the transitional phase in which he now was, Klimt had apinted the picture ‘Love’. In the earlier picture the lovers are shown in profile, the man holding the woman in his arms and bending his head towards hers. The light falls on the face of the woman, her eyes are closed, her head is tilted back and she looks ready to be kissed. The man’s face is in shadow so his expression is unclear. The man is the strong, active, dominating partner; the woman is presented as the devoted, expectant oject. The heads hovering above the pair point not only to the different ages of man (childhood, youth, old age) but also to the threat of death.

In the first of the three faculty pictures, ‘ Philosophy’, the figures, the figures soaring into space includea pairing of lovers in an embrace. As in ‘Love’, the two figures are shown from the side, but here the man is not larger then the woman. His face is hidden behind her shoulder, only her face is visible. His musclar back affirms his masculine strength; the woman’s body is almost competley covered by her long hair and the figures beneath her. There is no actual kiss, but a tender embrace which is part of a whole, symbolizing growth, ripness and decay.

In the Beethoven Frieze the kiss signifies fufillment after the victory over the hostile powers. As in ‘The Kiss’, the lovers stand against a golden ground, which breaks into the meadow of flowers on which a choir of angels is singing. Gehind the lovers is a rose bush. Klimt had used roses in ‘Love’ as well. As in ‘Philosophy’ the lovers are naked, but here the man’s strong muscular back entirely concelas the woman’s body. She has her arms around him, whie he bends down towards her. Nothing of thier faces, or thier kiss can bee seen, but I think it’s more important that it is felt. The man is once again the strong and active aprtner. He, in a way, symbolizes a kinght in shining armor....whos reward is love...personified in this woman. Her womanhood is more important hten her individuality; neither her body or her face can be seen very well.

The last precursor of ‘The Kiss’ seems to be ‘Fufillment’ in the Stoclet Frieze, though Klimt probably worked on this at the same time he was working on ‘The Kiss’. In the Stoclet Frieze, the lovers stand on a meadow of flowers, the rose-bush flowers far away in the background, but still there. As in the Beethoven Frieze, the man’s body covers the woman’s, though here her face and one hand are visible. Life is symbolized be a great tree, the threat