The Kiss (Klimt)

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The Kiss (Lovers), oil and gold leaf on canvas, 1907–1908.[1] Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 180 cm × 180 cm

The Kiss (in German Der Kuss) is an oil painting, with added silver and gold leaf by the Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, and was painted between 1907 and 1908 during the height of Klimt's "Golden Period". The painting depicts a couple embracing one another, their bodies entwined in elaborate beautiful robes decorated in a style influenced by the contemporary Art Nouveau style and the organic forms of the earlier Arts and Crafts movement. The painting hangs in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere museum in the Belvedere palace, Vienna, and is widely considered a masterpiece of the early modern period. It is an icon of the Jugendstil—Viennese Art Nouveau—and is considered Klimt's most popular work.[2]


Fulfilment, a sketch for the 1905–09 Brussels Stoclets.

Love, intimacy, and sexuality are common themes found in Gustav Klimt's works.[citation needed] The Stoclet Frieze and the Beethoven Frieze are such examples of Klimt's focus on romantic intimacy. Both works are precursors to The Kiss and feature the recurring motif of an embracing couple.

It is thought that Klimt and his companion Emilie Flöge modeled for the work,[3] but there is no evidence or record to prove this. Others suggest the female was the model known as 'Red Hilda'; she bears strong resemblance to the model in his Woman with feather boa, Goldfish and Danaë.[citation needed]


Gustav Klimt depicts the couple locked in an intimate embrace against a gold, flat background. The two figures are situated at the edge of a patch of flowery meadow that ends under the woman's exposed feet. The man wears a robe printed with geometric patterns and subtle swirls. He wears a crown of vines while the woman wears a crown of flowers. She is shown in a flowing dress with floral patterns. The man's face is not shown to the audience and instead, his face is bent downward to press a kiss to the woman's cheek, and his hands are cradling the woman's face. Her eyes are closed, with one arm wrapped around the man's neck, the other resting gently on his hand, and her face is upturned to receive the man's kiss.

The patterns in the painting suggests the style of Art Nouveau and the organic forms of the Arts and Crafts movement. At the same time, the background evokes the conflict between two- and three-dimensionality intrinsic to the work of Degas and other modernists. Paintings such as The Kiss are visual manifestations of fin-de-siecle spirit because they capture a decadence conveyed by opulent and sensuous images. The use of gold leaf recalls medieval "gold-ground" paintings, illuminated manuscripts, earlier mosaics, and the spiral patterns in the clothes recall Bronze Age art and the decorative tendrils seen in Western art since before classical times. The man's head ends very close to the top of the canvas, a departure from traditional Western canons that reflects the influence of Japanese prints, as does the painting's simplified composition.

Cupola of the choir: An Angel Offers a Model of The Church to Bishop Ecclesius, Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy

Klimt's use of gold was inspired by a trip he had made to Italy in 1903. When he visited Ravenna he saw the Byzantine mosaics in the Church of San Vitale. For Klimt, the flatness of the mosaics and their lack of perspective and depth only enhanced their golden brilliance, and he started to make unprecedented use of gold and silver leaf in his own work.[4]

It has also been argued that in this picture Klimt represented the moment Apollo kisses Daphne, following the metamorphosis of Ovid narrative.[5]


Klimt painted The Kiss soon after his three-part Vienna Ceiling series, which created a scandal and were criticized as both 'pornographic' and evidence of 'perverted excess'. The works had recast the artist as an enfant terrible for his anti-authoritarian and anti-popularist views on art. He wrote, "If you can not please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few".[6]

The Kiss, however, was enthusiastically received, and was purchased, still unfinished, by the Austrian government when it was put on public exhibition.[7]

References to The Kiss[edit]

In February 2013 Syrian artist Tammam Azzam superimposed an image of the painting onto a bombed building in an unidentified part of Syria, in a work called Freedom Graffiti, to call attention to the plight of war in his country.[8]

In 2012, 20th Century Fox released the action/romance movie This Means War starring Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy, and Chris Pine. The film features a scene where Pine and Witherspoon's characters tour a private Klimt collection, with The Kiss being the focal piece.[9]

Altered Carbon, an American dystopian science fiction cyberpunk web television series also makes reference to the painting which the main characters find leaning against the wall of an apartment in the far future.


  1. ^ Klimt Museum
  2. ^ Partsch, 267, 276
  3. ^ Klimt by Gilles Neret, 57
  4. ^ Private Life of a Masterpiece, BBC TV
  5. ^ Vives Chillida, Julio (2008). El beso (los enamorados) de Gustav Klimt. Un ensayo de iconografía. Lulu. ISBN 978-1-4092-0530-2.
  6. ^ Inscribed on the reverse of the 1899 Nuda Veritas. See Schwartz, 29
  7. ^ "Gustav Klimt and his enduring 'Kiss'". CNN Style. 2018-02-27. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Nichol, Joseph McGinty, director. This Means War. 20th Century Fox, 2012.


  • Alfred Weidinger, Stefanie Penck: Gustav Klimt The Kiss. Berlin, Jovis Verlag 2013, ISBN 978-3-86859-310-5
  • Schwartz, Agatha. Gender and Modernity in Central Europe. University of Ottawa Press, 2010. ISBN 0-7766-0726-X
  • Partsch, Susanna. Klimt: Life and Work. London, Bracken Books, 1989. ISBN 1-85170-286-5
  • O'Connor, Anne-Marie (2012). The Lady in Gold, The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, ISBN 0-307-26564-1.
  • Julio Vives Chillida, "El significado iconográfico de El beso (los enamorados), de Gustav Klimt", comunicación al primer Coup de Fouet Art nouveau International Congress, Barcelona, junio de 2013. [2]
  • The Art Story Contributors. "Gustav Klimt Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. 2018.

External links[edit]

External video
Gustav Klimt's The Kiss, Smarthistory