kiss represents a popular trope in Western art, a symbol of both
love and betrayal. There is Brassaï's photograph, Le Baiser
(The Kiss), where movement captures a dizzying whirl of
feeling. Brancusi's The Kiss, a sculpture of carved
limestone of a man and a woman embracing each other in a deep
kiss, is solid and rooted, speaking instead of stability, of the
earth itself. Rodin's The Kiss, the 1889 marble
sculpture of the lovers Francesca and Paolo - immortalized by
Dante in the Inferno and who fall in love while reading the
story of Lancelot and Guinevere. The doubly intoxicating
power of literature and the kiss made eternal by Dante …when
we read that the longed-for smile was kissed by so great a lover,
he who never shall be parted from me, all trembling, kissed my
Klimt's 1907-08 The Kiss, a sublime work painted in oil and
gold leaf, is from his 'golden period' when his ornamentation was
sumptuous - it was after all the belle époque in
Vienna! The painting depicts a man embracing a kneeling
woman whose arms encircle his neck. The man, resplendent in
a decorated gold cape, kisses her on the side of the face.
The woman is in a subordinate position; with her head angled back
in pleasure and her closed eyes she looks as if she is losing
herself in sexual ecstasy.
was a founding member of the Vienna Secession, the turn-of-the
century art movement that united the decorative and fine arts - a
melding apparent in the use of gold leaf and intricate patterned
design. While the painting lends itself to many
interpretations, we are particularly seduced by the idea of
opposites here: the woman's dress is covered with round, soft
forms while the man's cape is decorated with angular shapes; she
submissively kneels before the man, while he dominates his
lover. Light and dark, Apollonian and Dionysian, good and
evil. The age-old oppositions that were once again being
brought forward in Viennese intellectual circles at the time are
precisely what made the work of Klimt and some of his colleagues
such as Schiele and Kokoschka so powerful.
Klimt's gilt masterpiece, one is somehow confident that the
embrace at hand is no Judas kiss, but one of love instead.
Sometimes, a kiss is just a kiss.
Klimt's The Kiss - Belvedere in Vienna
The Kiss - Philadelphia Museum of Art
Kiss - Musée Rodin, Paris