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Gustav Klimt, The Kiss (1907-08)

   
       
 

A Kiss

   
 

Is more than just a Kiss...

   

 

  

 

The 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 mouth…. 

Gustav 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. 

Klimt 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.

Revisiting 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.  

 

See: Gustav Klimt's The Kiss - Belvedere in Vienna 
See: Brancusi's The Kiss - Philadelphia Museum of Art

See: Rodin's The Kiss - Musée Rodin, Paris

 

Tags:  art    love 

 

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Brassaï', Le Baiser

 


Brancusi, The Kiss (1916)

 


Rodin, The Kiss (1889)

       
       
     

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