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One sometimes hears that the beautiful Mona Lisa, once seen with your own eyes, is not as wonderful as imagined, but rather a small painting, lost in the grandeur of a museum room. Well, this disappointing effect will never happen when you see The Kiss by Gustav Klimt for the first time in the flesh. Shining, intense and incredibly oversized, this iconic painting, measuring approximately 6 x 6 feet, dominates the gallery of the Belvedere Palace in Vienna.
It did not leave indifferent neither the first visitors who saw it, when the painter Klimt exhibited it in 1908 at the Kunstschau exhibition, with the other Viennese Secessionist artists. Despite the fact that Klimt painted it in a critical time in his career, when he had attracted criticism for the erotic content of his art and was described as pornographic, The Kiss was sold before it was even finished. It was an incredible success, and it is still among the most popular and reproduced paintings of our times.
But what makes this artwork so unforgettable? Klimt has a unique and highly recognizable style; his portraits are rich of patterns, decoration, they are glimmering and at the same time refined and elegant, thanks to the incredible use of gold. The Kiss represents the pinnacle of the Klimt’s golden phase, with its details made of gold leave, a technique that the artist knew well being the son of a goldsmith.
Observing The Kiss, we perceive the ancient echoes of a glorious past, the one of Byzantine mosaics with their golden backgrounds, which the artist had seen in Venice and Ravenna. But that is not all, this opulent appearance is declined by absorbing contemporary vibes, such as the decorative component typical of the Art Nouveau style and the exotic bi-dimensionality, typical of Japanese art and so appreciated by the Impressionists.
However, the charm of The Kiss is not only a matter of technique and craftsmanship. This piece of art is also extremely intense because of its loving subject. It represents an ethereal and mystical embrace, where the two lovers, kneeling in a field of wildflower, kiss tenderly, protected by a golden cloak. The two lovers are also distinguished by their different clothing motifs: the man’s is rectangular and with a geometric black and white motif, symbolising strength and virility, while the woman’s is floral and rounded, representing maternity and femininity. The space seems unreal to us, lacking in depth and characterised by indistinguishable shapes; we can only perceive the faces, the hands and the feet of the two lovers, almost as if they had been immortalised in a moment detached from reality, where only the two of them exist. They are completely untouched by time and the outside world, concealed only in their embrace.
The Kiss is a painting that has fascinated every generation from the beginning of the 20th century because it totally embodies the archetype of love. A fusion, physically depicted, between two distinct bodies. A golden embrace in which it is no longer possible to distinguish who is he and who is she.