The Kiss (Lovers) was painted by the Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt between 1907 and 1908, the highpoint of his “Golden Period”, when he painted a number of works in a similar gilded style. A perfect square, the canvas depicts a couple embracing, their bodies entwined in elaborate robes decorated in a style influenced by both linear constructs of the contemporary Art Nouveau style and the organic forms of the earlier Arts and Crafts movement.
KLIMT’S CAREER WAS ON THE DOWNSWING WHEN HE PAINTED THE KISS.
Before creating this piece, Klimt had received scathing scorn in the first decade of the 20th century for his three-part University of Vienna Ceiling Paintings. Because of the nudity in these works, his interpretation of Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence were derided as “pornography” and “perverted excess,” wounding his reputation.
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(a.k.a. The Österreichische Galerie Belvedere) from adding it to their collection on the spot.
THE KISS‘S SALE BROKE RECORDS.
How do you buy a work of art that hasn’t even been finished yet? You make an offer that can’t be refused. To acquire this transcendent piece of art, the Belvedere paid 25,000 crowns (or about $240,000 today). Prior to this mammoth sale, the highest price paid for a painting in Austria was a relatively paltry 500 crowns.
IT’S A PRIME EXAMPLE OF KLIMT’S “GOLDEN PERIOD.”
Inspired by the Byzantine mosaics he’d seen on his travels, Klimt mingled gold leaf into his oil paints to create what would become his signature style.
IT’S REALLY BIG.
The Kiss measures 180 centimeters by 180 centimeters, nearly a 6-foot square.
KLIMT AND THE KISS WERE MINTED.
In 2003, Austria released a commemorative 100 Euro coin that had a etching of The Kiss on one side, and a portrait of Klimt at work in his studio on the other.
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