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The artist's biography
The Kiss. Gustav Klimt. 1907/08. Oil on canvas
The son of a goldsmith engraver and an opera singer, Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) grew up in an environment nourished by artistic ambitions. Above all, he is remembered as being the spokesman of the decadence and disintegration of a society that still had very close ties with the old Austro-Hungarian Empire.
A key figure of Art Nouveau and Viennese symbolism, his art is linear, voluptuously ornamental, luxurious and sensual. His Byzantine influence comes across in his use of gold, precious materials and colours that range from subtle to vivid and luminous.
In The Kiss, the faces and hands seem to stand out in relief. The man’s hands tenderly and passionately hold the woman’s face. Her left hand strokes the man’s right hand while the other is wrapped around the nape of his neck. The two faces form a curve that prolongs the line of the mantles, the décor of which follows traditional symbolism; the man’s a rectangular chequerboard of cold colours representing the emblems of reason; the woman’s a chalice of round colourful flowers, suggesting her plant-like receptiveness.
Regards sur la peinture (Facets of painting), published by Fabbri, 1988.