Der Kuss | Quinn Satterlund
As I sit here on my kitchen table, with only my Chromebook and a tall glass of water to keep me company, I am struggling to write. I have procrastinated long enough, delaying having to accomplish this article until the worst possible time; Now, it must be done. I’ve had a couple of ideas so far, but either A) I’ve already done something similar to that in the past or B) I just don’t think I could write a whole article about it. Of course, I could just write an album review (Spiderr, perhaps?) but I just don’t have it in me right now. So, I’ve decided to write about an interesting piece of artwork (or two, depending on how much I can write) I stumbled across last week, Gustav Klimt’s “Der Kuss” (German for “The Kiss”). Now, I am by no means an aesthete, but I can appreciate a good piece of art here and there.
An oil on canvas painting with added gold leaf, silver, and platinum, it was first displayed in 1908 at the Kunstschau art exhibition, under the title “Liebespaar” (German for “lovers”). It is also arguably Klimt's most popular work and is widely viewed as an icon of Art Nouveau. “The Kiss” represents the culmination of a phase known as the “Golden Period” in Klimt’s artistic career. According to Google’s Art and Culture Section, “In this decade, the artist created a puzzling, ornamental encoded program that revolved around the mystery of existence, love, and fulfillment through art.” Klimt’s inspiration for the piece was from a 1903 viewing of Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna, Italy, as well as Ancient Egyptian mythology and the British Arts and Crafts movement.
The painting is otherworldly and lush, teeming with life: “Gustav Klimt depicts the couple locked in an intimate embrace against a gold, flat background” … “The man wears a robe printed with geometric patterns and subtle swirl [and] a crown of vines, while the woman wears a crown of flowers. She is shown in a flowing dress with floral patterns. The man's face is not shown to the audience, instead, his face is bent downward to press a kiss on the woman's cheek, and his hands are cradling the woman's face. Her eyes are closed, with one arm wrapped around the man's neck, the other resting gently on his hand, and her face is upturned to receive the man's kiss.”. Every single patch of “The Kiss'' is filled with color and passion, even down to the small, minute details. Flecks of gold and silver breathe vigor into the piece, making it spring off the canvas as it fills your eyes with each pigment Klimt masterfully used.
At first, the reception to “The Kiss” was overwhelmingly negative. Deemed as “pornographic” and filled with “perverted excess”, the painting scandalized many in pious Italy. In response, Klimt had this to say: “If you can not please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few.” Despite this, the Austrian government still purchased the piece for 25,000 crowns (about 250,000 dollars in today’s money) when it was put on public exhibition. Contemporary critics, however, have lauded the painting as a masterpiece. Adrian Brijbassi, a reviewer and travel journalist wrote, "[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."
So, the next time you take a look at this piece, remember to be one of the few.