Happy Birthday, Gustav Klimt!

This is one sensual piece, for sure.

Words that describe “The Kiss” pale by comparison to what Gustav Klimt shows in the details of his famous work.

You can talk about the “couple locked in intimacy” but it is not just the tightness of the embrace they share, it is how Klimt encases them in the man’s golden cloak.

Instead of covering her up entirely, Klimt shows the woman in her tight-fitting dress of colorful circles, ovals, dots, contrasting with the man’s cloak of black rectangles. The portion of the cloak that encases her, presumbly the underside of his cloak, reflects similar patterns of ovals and circles. Klimt cleverly uses shapes, patterns and color to play with our views of contrasts – male/female, power/submission, sex/love.

But it goes beyond the obvious.

Sensuality is suggested subtlely.

Check out how he drabes long, sparkly tassles tantalizingly over her bare legs. They don’t cover her. They touch her bit of naked skin teasingly and then, flows on to cover some parts of the ground. The tassles – is it just decorative or has Klimt used it to presume possesion?



Have you noticed the woman’s hands? Her left hand tries to hold his strong hand which pushes her face towards his lips for the kiss. Is she trying to stop his forcefulness? Look at her right hand. It does not lay silently on his smooth nape. Her fingers are contorted. It is as if she is wondering – what do I do now? You can just imagine that the next thing she might do is start drumming her fingers on his nape wondering – hmmmm… should I shove this idiot?

TNL likes this piece a lot. Is it about the woman? After all, you see her sweet expressionless face turn fully towards you whereas the man’s angular face is indescernible. She is a person in her own right defined by her shape and form and not eaten up by the golden cloak.


Klimt never married but had 3 illegitimate children (so says trusty Wikipedia). One wonders about his commitment issues. Looking at “The Kiss” – TNL can’t help feeling that the guy appreciated the subtleties of a man/woman relationship. It is not about him or her but the tension and the power that is subtlely played out and opulently presented.

Read more about Gustav Klimt from the books at NUS Libraries.

Happy 150th Birthday, Mr Klimt.


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