“The Kiss” is the only piece of art that is displayed in my bedroom. Of course, it is only a reproduction but its presence is in contrast to the otherwise minimalist décor of the room. It is there because I really like it. The original still hangs in the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna, Austria and I have made the pilgrimage to see it there as well as many of the other works of the artist Gustav Klimt which can be found all around the city.
Some basic information for those inclined to be serious students of the arts; Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was a founder and leading proponent of the Secession art movement and what has come to be known as Art Nouveau. His patrons included the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef I but Klimt was always pushing the limits of expression and some of his work which was originally commissioned for the University were deemed too provocative, even pornographic, and banished from public display. I believe a new movie about his life was released last year with John Malkovich taking the lead role.
It is true that nudes are prominent in many of Klimt’s works. However, I do not think they were meant to be erotic. I am no expert but my impression is that in many of his earlier works, his “women” were always portrayed as powerful individuals, almost perfect beings, goddesses.
A good example are the murals that Klimt did for the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. These feminine images representing Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities can be found adorning the staircase of the museum. Judith I is also a portrayal of a powerful woman; a heroine from the apocryphal Book of Judith. Notice that she holds the severed head of Holofernes. Less of a sex object and more of a femme fatale.
Later on, as in the Beethoven Frieze, the nudes, both male and females, seemed to be more like props for the scenery rather than drawing attention to themselves. Again, I must qualify this by saying this is my untrained opinion.
My all time favourite is of course, “The Kiss”. Here there is no nudity but if anything, I find this to be a particularly sensual work. It has been noted that the female in this painting is in a submissive pose which is quite different from how his female subjects are normally portrayed. Intellectuals offer various interpretations to explain this. I like to think that by this late stage of his life, Klimt had discovered real love with a woman (Emilie Flöge) and this was reflected in this work where women are no longer idealized as in his earliest works nor are they in tension with the male sex as I find in the Beethoven Frieze. It is a painting of true, everlasting love based on mutual respect and mutual subservience of the partners.
But forget all the psycho-babble above. I just like it very much.
Part of the Beethoven Frieze
P.S. I would also to thank kat for this original picture in the pointillism style during my blue period.