Gustav Klimt (1862-1918): The Kiss, 1907 - 1908, oil on canvas, 180 × 180 cm (70.9 × 70.9 in), Belvedere Museum, Vienna, Austria . .
Gustav Klimt often took an avant-garde approach to painting. His distinctive style is particularly apparent in The Kiss, which was painted during his luminous “Golden Period.” Works produced during this time feature pronounced planes and delicate detailing made of gold leaf. Inspired by Byzantine mosaics, this gilding gives each piece a glimmering appearance that accentuates the ethereal nature of Klimt's subject matter and style.
The Kiss depicts an embracing couple kneeling in a grassy patch of wildflowers. Clad in a geometrically-printed robe and with a crown of vines on his head, the man cradles the woman's face as he leans in to kiss her. The female figure—whose colourful, organically patterned dress contrasts her partner's garment—wears flowers in her hair. As she wraps her arms around her partner's neck, her eyes are peacefully closed, emphasizing the tranquility and intimacy of the scene.
Klimt employed a highly decorative style in most of his works. This approach materialized mostly as patterns, which have a strong presence in The Kiss. From radiating rings and swirling spirals to rectangular blocks and concentric squares, the shapes and forms featured in the painting showcase Klimt's attention to detail.
Though he is predominantly renowned for his liberal use of gold, Klimt also often employed a radiant rage of colors in his compositions. This is particularly apparent in the stylized flowers that adorn the scene. These floral embellishments are evident in the hair of the embracing subjects, as well as in the grass in which they're kneeling. They are made up of an array of tones, including purple, white, blue, green, red, and orange, and add a touch of matte colour to the nearly entirely reflective canvas.
The Kiss was bought before it was finished. In 1908, the Austrian Gallery displayed The Kiss for the first time, even though Klimt hadn't yet put the finishing touches on the work. Its unfinished state didn't stop the Belvedere Museum from adding it to their collection on the spot.