gustav klimpt the kiss
The Kiss, however, was enthusiastically received, and was purchased, still unfinished, by the Austrian government when it was put on public exhibition. 
It is thought that Klimt and his companion Emilie Flöge modeled for the work,  but there is no evidence or record to prove this. Others suggest the female was the model known as ‘Red Hilda’; she bears strong resemblance to the model in his Woman with feather boa, Goldfish and Danaë. 
“The Kiss” is Klimt’s artistic response to the Byzantine mosaics at Ravenna, Italy, which so profoundly affected him. When re-assessing The Kiss for Klimt’s 150th birthday, journalist Adrian Brijbassi wrote, “The Kiss by Gustav Klimt surpasses expectations,” unlike that tiny and underwhelming Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. After throwing shade on the more famous painting, Brijbassi explained, “[The Kiss] does what a great piece of art is supposed to do: Hold your gaze, make you admire its aesthetic qualities while trying to discern what’s beyond its superficial aspects.”
The Kiss is Klimt’s most popular work and visitors flock annually to see it in Vienna’s Austrian Gallery. At a remarkable 72in x 72in (180cm x 180cm), its powerful presence resounds from the wall as the life-size figures, wrapped in gold, embrace.
The Tree of Life, Stoclet Frieze (detail)
The Tree of Life, Stoclet Frieze, 1909
Klimt painted The Kiss at a critical moment in his career: in the midst of an artistic panic. He had just received scathing criticism for his University of Vienna ceiling paintings, Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence. The paintings were described as pornographic, and Klimt had reservations about his work and corrupted reputation. Moreover, he had just left the Vienna Secession, despite having founded and acted as the first president of the movement. This group aimed to break ties with the Academy of Fine Arts and its conservative values. The Vienna Secessionists painted “what they shouldn’t have painted”, refusing to remove sexual elements from their works. They explored the power of a delicate touch, an embrace, a kiss, a moment of violence or an erotic scene. Although Klimt left the movement due to disagreements, he remained its main representative along with Egon Schiele. Additionally, after breaking away from the Secession, Klimt organised The Kunstschau exhibition where he presented The Kiss for the first time to the public. The event was received with fierce criticism and ended in financial disaster. However despite this, the exhibition actually initiated the astronomical success of The Kiss. The Viennese government bought the work even before the exhibition had ended, as it was deemed a national interest.
Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss is the archetype of tenderness and passion. This shimmering, colourful, love scene of two faces and bodies embracing each other, is conserved at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna. Although clearly extravagant, the gold leaf covered canvas does not compromise the profound significance behind the work. Artsper invites you to dive into this erotic, ambiguous and mythical work, and discover its fascinating meaning.
The painter’s works mostly focused on women, so the inclusion of a man—albeit one whose face is obscured—was unusual for Klimt. The figures’ modest dress also marks this painting as one of Klimt’s more conservative creations.
After throwing shade on the more famous painting, Brijbassi explained, “[The Kiss] does what a great piece of art is supposed to do: Hold your gaze, make you admire its aesthetic qualities while trying to discern what’s beyond its superficial aspects.”