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The Story Behind Gustav Klimt’s Shimmering Symbolist Painting ‘The Kiss’

Aesthetic Importance

In addition to its golden style and subject matter, The Kiss is celebrated for other details distinctive of the artist. These include the presence of contrasting patterns, a bright color scheme, and fine lines.

Intricate Patterns

Like many painters of the Vienna Secession—a movement formed by Austrian artists interested in breaking free from tradition—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.

The Kiss Gustav Klimt Klimt the Kiss Klimt Kiss

The Kiss (detail)

Vivid Colors

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 color to the nearly entirely reflective canvas.

The Kiss Gustav Klimt Klimt the Kiss Klimt Kiss

The Kiss (detail)

Delicate Draughtsmanship

While many people recognize The Kiss for its bold pattern-work and shimmering paint, the fine lines that compose its figures are also characteristically Klimt. The artist's skilled draughtsmanship is especially evident in his rendering of the female subject.  Her soft face features intricate eyelashes and a delicately-defined nose, while simple lines compose her gently bent hands.

The Kiss Gustav Klimt Klimt the Kiss Klimt Kiss

The Kiss (detail)

Even with such a striking ability to gracefully conceive figurative yet dreamy subject matter, Klimt was unsure of his talents' true merit. “I can paint and draw,” he explained. “I believe this myself and a few other people say that they believe this too. But I'm not certain of whether it's true.” Given the everlasting influence and enduring admiration of The Kiss, however, there's little room for doubt.

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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