Valentine’s Day: Art in A Kiss (Klimt)

Cher’s Famous Art

14 February 2021

“The Kiss” – “Lovers”

Gustav Klimt, 1907-1908, Art Nouveau/Symbolist, Austrian

Happy Valentine’s Day, 2021!

Armchair Travel: “Woman in Gold” and “Monuments Men

Traveler Tip: Ravenna, Italy Mosaics

Valentine’s Day is a day set aside to show LOVE for those who are close to us: family, friends and lovers. Known interchangeably as The Kiss and Lovers,” this oil painting on canvas by Gustav Klimt comes to mind as an ideal artwork to showcase for Valentine’s Day!

The Kiss,” along with “Woman in Gold” are Klimt’s two most famous paintings. Please read my blogs for and intriguing, in-depth discussion on the artist and his famous painting “Woman in Gold” and the film discussion “Woman in Gold” on the movie which was inspired by her story.

Its impressive size (5′ 10 3/4″ x 5′ 10 3/4″), The Kiss evokes a resounding, powerful presence for the viewer. Created during his “Golden Period,” the life-size figures, wrapped in an embrace, are enveloped in shimmering gold. Klimt used pieces of actual gold leaf, silver and platinum to enhance the effect; in materials alone, it is no wonder that it is worth an amazing amount of money!

Treasure Hunt! Amidst the extravagant, flat patterns of the gleaming garment, the artist reveals a segment of each lover’s body, invoking a bit of a treasure hunt as well!

“The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt

The Kiss” is one of those pieces of art that I believe one has to view in person, to fully appreciate. The effect of the light glimmering off of the gold leaf, the impact of the life-size figures and the emotion seen in their faces, all beg to be seen and experienced close up and in person. As a lover of color and pattern, I am intrigued and inspired by all those seemingly endless, luminous, and magnificent shapes and and patterns! (Still on my Bucket List, one day I hope to view this masterpiece in person!)

Where is “The Kiss”?

Its impressive size (5′ 10 3/4″ x 5′ 10 3/4″) and colorful nature make it one of the major attractions at the Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria.

(Photo from http://www.gustav-klimt.com)

Experiencing Art in person, when possible, is a deep conviction of mine. It has only increased over the years with personal travel, compounded with experience leading student and adult tours to museums both locally and around the world.

Seeing the “Real” Thing: Some art is well represented in photographs; some is not. Instead, it leaves one wanting more; it stirs a deep desire within the viewer to see it in person, up close. Photos of majestic Greek columns are impressive; but they cannot replace the “real” thing, the experience of standing in the shadow of a towering ancient Greek temple, feeling the thrill of its cold marble! A colorful photograph of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” evokes awe and intrigue. Seen in person, however, the viewer of his masterpiece can feel the movement and intensity of the bright gold stars as they roll across the deep blue sky, much as the artist saw and imagined it.

Gustav Klimt (July 14, 1862-February 6, 1918) was an Austrian painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Art Nouveau (Vienna Secession) movement. Like many artists of the time, the body of his work reflects elements of a variety of other movements as well: Modern, Neo-Classic, Realism, Surrealism and Romanticism. Because of this, he is often identified as being part of fin de siècle. (Side note: This is a new word I learned while writing this! It is a French term meaning “end of century,” as well as a reference to the closing of one era and onset of another, typically referring to the end of the 19th century.)

Neo”-Byzantine. I found it fascinating that Klimt’s inspiration for his “Golden Period” derived from trips to Ravenna, Italy (1903) where he experienced the magic of the mosaics of San Vitale. His interest in the Byzantine period can be seen in his move towards greater stability and static, inorganic forms.

Having visited the magnificent Ravenna mosaics in person, this knowledge has greatly increased my appreciation for Klimt’s work.

The use of gold harked back to Klimt’s own past, to the gold and metal work of his father and younger brother Ernst who both greatly impacted his work in the early years. Allegorical in nature, his work also seems to portray a mystical union of spiritual and sensual love. While noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other objects d’art. Klimt’s primary subject was the female body.

I have come to greatly enjoy and appreciate Klimt’s work and his use of the elements of design as seen with the color and pattern in “The Kiss” and “Woman in Gold” – as well as his reference to the Ravenna mosaics.

TRAVELER TIP: Ravenna Italy mosaics are worth the trip to Italy’s east coast. A brief train ride out of Bologna will take you to the heart of the city and walking distance to the major sites. More on this in my Traveler’s Tips: Italy

ARMCHAIR TRAVEL: In the comfort of your home, you can enjoy Art and History in two movies that focus on the value of art and what means unscrupulous people will go about to obtain–and retain–it. Both are set in World War II. “Woman in Gold” is about a portrait by Klimt that was stolen from a Jewish family by the Nazis and the fight for justice by its rightful owners to have it returned to its rightful owners. “Monuments Men is a compelling untold story about an unlikely WWII platoon tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners. Click on the links above for the Film Discussion posts I’ve written showcasing these two movies.

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