The Kiss by Gustav Klimt: Depiction Of Love Or Artist’s Eroticism?

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt: Depiction Of Love Or Artist’s Eroticism?

If you are into artwork, then you must know this answer.

The most common subjects that are incorporated into the paintings are women!

The admirers of the arts pay more attention to the paintings that showcase women as their primary objects.

Gustav Klimt is described as an artist known for the depiction of women and sensual figures in his paintings.

If you look into the paintings by Gustav Klimt, you will observe that not a single piece was ever made without the inclusion of female figures.

Except for one painting, that is, “THE KISS!” It’s the only painting that portrays a woman with a male figure. A couple portrait was not common for Klimt to produce as an artist known for eroticism.

But why does Klimt showcase a man only in this painting? Who does it represent? What makes The Kiss by Gustav Klimt an exception?

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Well, all your queries will be answered in this blog, where we have a detailed description of the artwork, “The Kiss.”

But first, let us acknowledge the man who created this masterpiece.

I. Artist Gustav Klimt

Picture of the famous artist Gustav Klimt who painted the most renowned painting The Kiss.


Year: 1862-1918

Art Style: Decorative, Lavish

Themes: Eroticism, Female Figures

The founding father of the Vienna Secession movements, Gustav Klimt, was known for depicting pleasure in human suffering, or, should I say, women’s suffering.

At an early age, Klimt showed curiosity about artistic themes and culture.

The Art Nouveau Movement influenced Klimt in such a way that it could be witnessed through his paintings.

The rumors about his intimate relationship with his sister-in-law, Emilie, were excessively famous, giving him the title casanova.

It is also believed that Klimt had 14 children, although he had never gotten married.

These facts reveal the true nature of Gustav and his obsession with the depiction of women in his art.

The Kiss was the most reproduced painting during that time and was in constant demand among the public.

It is also believed that The Kiss by Gustav Klimt was the only self-portrait produced in his entire career.

But the questions that arise as an admirer of Klimt’s The Kiss can be: Can a man known for womanizing also have a lover? If it’s a self-portrait then who does the woman represent?

The answer to your questions lies further!

II. Saga of the Art

A renowned artwork always comes with a history that is known by few. 

During that time, numerous arts and movements were introduced, inspiring various famous artists in their work.

Gustav Klimt was a pioneer of some of the movements.

He admired the works of artists such as Oskar Kokoschka who incorporated the bitterness of human feelings and experiences.

The lady in the painting “The Kiss” is believed to be his secret lover, Emilie (his sister-in-law).

This gives a clear picture of the relationship between them as something more than intimacy.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt belongs to the golden period, including the artwork “Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” who is described as a lady in gold.

To understand the art in a better way, we have to first know about the phase during which it took place—the Golden Period!

III. The Golden Era

If you have observed Klimt’s paintings, you must have seen the golden texture included in his various works.

Why does Klimt use gold in his paintings?

As Klimt’s father was said to be the goldsmith, the relationship between him and the gold has existed for ages.

But the recognition of the use of gold came after his visit to Italy.

The mosaic art of the Byzantines inspired Klimt, as he witnessed the use of gold in the most expansive way.

He started drawing leaves and powdered gold in his art, which eventually gave birth to the golden period. The immense use of gold made the other artists give this form a shot!

The sparkling background acts as a cocoon for the lovers in which they are indulged. The touch of gold gives the art a wealthy and high social status.

People were in awe when they observed the richness of the painting by Klimt. Its adherence and sign of luxury built Gustav’s image as a classic artist.

The shimmering appearance gives The Kiss the title of the most captivating and controversial artwork during that era.

IV. The Kiss: Analysis

Year: 1907-1908

Location: Belvedere Museum Vienna

Medium: Oil and gold leaf on canvas

What makes the art appealing? The little details that it consists of, the composition, and of course the period it belongs to!

Here, we will be analyzing all the aspects that revolve around the painting The Kiss.

a) Period it belongs to

Which period does The Kiss belong to?

If I told you that this single painting represents four art periods, what would be your reaction?

This is true! The Kiss by Gustav Klimt belongs to four art periods, namely, Art Nouveau, Symbolism art, the Vienna Secession, and modern art paintings.

Without a doubt, it was the most talked about painting during that period of time.

Klimt’s experiments led to the creation of masterpieces that had reflections of different art periods, encouraging other artists to incorporate them in their works.

b) Subject matter

A massive work of art that shows two lovers covered in a golden robe embracing each other.

This is the primary thought that crosses everyone’s mind in the first place when they catch a glimpse of it.

Klimt, who is famous for showing uncovered female figures, has wrapped this painting with no ounce of body shown to the audience.

What was he trying to show ? Was he experimenting with his own techniques?

I guess yes! The Kiss is merged with the couple that is indulged in each other. We could easily observe the intimacy between them, which is clear from the woman’s face.

The repeated patterns abstract the image and emphasize the naturalism of the woman’s face.

The symbolism over naturalism is the primary aspect that depicts the unconscious mind of Klimt and the urge to have an erotic climax.

Although Klimt has depicted a male figure, the profile of the man is still not visible to the audience and diverts attention to the face of the woman.

We can get the intense feeling of sensual pleasure even though Klimt covered the bodies of the characters.

Klimt’s kiss portrays love, sensuality, and intimacy as the primary themes that are still illuminating in this painting.

The idea of focusing on these themes could be witnessed through his art, The Kiss. 

He once mentioned that if anyone wants to know his desires, they must give his paintings a glance, which makes him a man acknowledged for his paintings!

V. Resemblance

A painting shows the resemblance of the artist’s mindset, which is related to their thoughts, inspiration, or depiction of a character.

So, what does The Kiss by Klimt resemble?

A couple who indulge themselves without caring what others think is what The Kiss represents.

It is an allegory of affection for eroticism, making the art confusing in the eyes of the audience.

People mostly have this thought: “Is The Kiss by Gustav Klimt romantic?”

There are many interpretations of this question.

The romance in painting makes it  the most romantic art, whereas the meaning is not-so-romantic because of Klimt’s strange portrayal of figures. 

The Kiss by Gustav has the significance of mixing individuality with the eternal universe.

But what does an art title like The Kiss signify other than love?

a) The Couple

Picture of Gustav Klimt and his sister-in-law Emilie Floge that symbolize the painting The Kiss.

Picture of Gustav Klimt and his sister-in-law Emilie Floge; Image:

When we look at the painting, the main focus goes to the couple, which is obvious.

But who are the couple representing?

As mentioned above, the female represents Klimt’s long term partner, Emilie Floge, and the male represents Gustav himself.

The man and woman figures are shown giving desires to themselves, entirely untouched by reality.

They even speak about the contrasting nature that appears in the painting Kiss.

The male pattern varies in energy with the female figure. The feminine form is contrasted with the male as it has a brightly painted floral motif.

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The woman kneeling down symbolizes the dominant nature of the man.

The primary significance of the art is the embrace that conceals the man’s face, giving all the focus to the woman.

Although the man’s posture is intrusive, his hands are a symbol of tenderness and warmth for his partner.

The man indicates masculinity, strength, and power, whereas the woman as an individual gives out a feminine appearance.

Gustav Klimt The Kiss is a portrayal of a couple who are representing their solitary lives as a whole.

VI. Impact

Allegory of Love Painting by Gustav Klimt that depicts a glimpse of The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

Allegory of Love Painting by Gustav Klimt; Image:

Now that we know the symbolism it carries within itself, it gives us a clear picture of why this art became influential.

There are some aspects that this art covers, giving it a different meaning and a new turn in the world of art.

To understand more about The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, there are always some impacts that are different than what it seems like, some questions that are unanswered.

Let’s take a look at this section.

a) Sexuality

As the title suggests, sexuality was the primary theme for the painter of The Kiss.

Why was “The Kiss” controversial? – The Viennese audience criticizes the art as both pornographic and evidence of perversion.

Besides the fact that the painting does not show any part of the bodies of both males and females, intimacy was not a common subject during that time.

When the painting was introduced, it was shocking for the audience to view such art that saturates sexuality.

Something so private was brought to the public, which gave the audience a feeling of awe.

Despite such shocking reviews, the artwork was sold for the value of 25,000 crowns, which in today’s time could be more than $24 million.

The cost was five times the amount ever paid for a particular painting in Vienna.

Due to this investment made by the government, The Kiss sparked more interest among the audience and made other artists like Egon Schille address sexuality openly in their works.

This blows the audience’s mind and marks a new form in art culture. 

b) Transgress

As we learn how the art came out for the audience, it already crossed boundaries that were not acceptable.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt transgressed the final boundaries and led the world to discover a new art.

He opened a gate that made other artists explore shocking subject matter.

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They were highly influenced by Klimt’s thoughts and ideas, which eventually made him the pioneer of erotic art culture.

The use of bold colors, symbols, and patterns forged a new path for modern and Post-Modern artists.

Klimt did what his mind and hand let him do, with no boundaries set.

This could be one of the reasons why The Kiss became his most famous painting.

c) Undying Love

The impressive, luminous picture of two sweethearts indulging in each other depicts the desire for undying love.

The gesture of simple love and desire has impacted the world of artists’ intentions.

As an artist, Klimt could not restrict himself to just one pattern, which was introduced in the 20th century art of Vienna. He explored the power of delicate touch, an embrace, and a woman’s kiss through this Vienna Secession art.

His experiment led to this masterpiece, which created a new style that still moves the contemporary world.

A portrayal of love and affection through a painting marks the name of Klimt as an artist.

VII. What gives The Kiss an Aesthetic tone?

Aesthetic tone of painting The Kiss by Gustav Klimt.

Aesthetic tone of painting The Kiss by Gustav Klimt; Image:

How can a painting be classified as an aesthetic piece? 

The combination of the art that has a resemblance to a golden touch and feel, a tone that adds a glittery look, and the shades that give a shimmery appearance makes the art piece fall into an artistic tone.

The reason for The Kiss by Gustav Klimt’s being so renowned could be glorified by the aesthetic significance that brought the art into existence..

If we didn’t give this section a shot, then it would be a waste of Klimt’s art.

a) Vivid colors

The bold and liberal use of gold gave a name to his golden period.

Other than gold, he used vibrant colors, which give the flowers a high spirited look.

If you observe, the purple lilac flowers are different in women’s hair than the flowers that appear in the field below.

The different shades blend with the other compositions, giving contrast to the golden theme.

Bright and luxurious schemes were the primary subjects of the artist.

What better example could there be than The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, which portrayed the combination of shades in the most intriguing manner that caught the viewer’s attention. 

What a master!

b) Patterns

We often witness patterns in Klimt’s paintings, but what is the meaning behind those styles? The pattern shows the symbolism of a kiss, which he brought into existence through his artistic skills.

The painter Gustav Klimt revolves his work around the growth and breakdown of human life, experiences, and power.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt would be incomplete without his pattern formation.

It is composed of flat areas where you observe that black rectangular patterns are on the male figure and concentric circles are portrayed on the female figure.

The decorations are irregular, but the colors tie up all the patterns into a flow.

It gives a reflection of the subconscious mind of the artist, creating a rhythm within the painting.

c) Lines and space

Spot the lines and space in The Kiss painting!

The lovers are melting into the background, which is a conflicted swirl of two or three dimensional shapes.

Klimt, who is famous for constructing human figures, gives tangled detail to the painting The Kiss.

When you observe the woman’s face, what effect does it provide?

Soft, delicate, graceful?

Klimt’s clean and skillful draughtsmanship is seen through the face of the lady, which is carved with delicacy, giving the woman a profile of intimacy.

Whereas the man’s face has a hidden feature that speaks about who the primary character in the painting is—the woman!

The tone, the patterns, the shape, and the colors marked this painting as undoubtedly the most celebrated art during that period.

But as you know, with success come some setbacks that are hidden from the real world.

Some realities that are known by few!

VIII. Facts You May Not Know About the Art

Yes, you read it right—facts you may not know about The Kiss by Gustav Klimt!

  • Considering Gustav’s other works, the price of his painting The Kiss is significantly high, which makes it among the most expensive paintings.
  • It’s the only painting by Klimt that doesn’t showcase any part of nudity.
  • The Kiss was sold before the completion of the artwork.
  • The painting was produced when Klimt was suffering from financial hardships.
  • The gold used in the painting is real and authentic.
  • It was a major definition of his artistic style and Art Nouveau paintings.
  • Although Klimt once said that “There is no self-portrait of me,” this work was apparently counted as his first self-portrait.
  • 100 Euro gold coins were introduced by the Austrian mint in 2003, whose one side had Gustav Klimt and the other side had a small etch of The Kiss.
Back and front view of 100 Euro gold coin introduced by the Austrian mint that also depicts The Kiss by Gustav Klimt.

Front and back view of 100 Euro gold coin introduced by the Austrian mint; Image:

IX. Reception and Recognition

Engrave versions of the famous painting The Kiss by Gustav Klimt.


Reception is nothing but the positive and negative perceptions of the public towards the painting that either make or break the reputation of art. 

Soon after his three part Vienna Ceiling series, Klimt painted The Kiss, which created a scandal in relation to evidence of pornography.

Although the work was criticized by many, it received plenty of enthusiasm from the public.

Klimt became one of the first painters to successfully mix the culture and influences of Vienna to create an Austrian style.

Apart from this, The Kiss by Gustav Klimt became popular among the couple.

It eventually became the symbol of love and passion that was shown in the painting.

The art got imprinted on different objects; people crafted costumes matching the couple shown in the painting; and the poses and postures were the most admired by the duos.

The entertainment industry also marked the existence of painting in its unique form.

It was featured not only in films like Bad Timing, This Means War, and Tiny Furniture but also in series such as The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones and The Freshman.

No wonder The Kiss painting remains one of the most beloved artworks of all time!

Art is a line around your thoughts.”

Gustav Klimt

This quote by Gustav Klimt portrays the meaning through his paintings, giving it a touch of bona fides.

Hi From The Writer

Done with the blog, “The Kiss by Gustav Klimt?”

Now, I am curious to know your perspective on the painting and the material that we provided in this blog.

Give your views to us via comments or write to me at [email protected].

I will be waiting to hear your opinions and insights.

Keep exploring!


What was the original cost of The Kiss by Gustav Klimt?

The value of The Kiss was record-breakingly high during that time, which makes it worth $2,40,000 in today’s money.

How big is The Kiss by Klimt?

The painting is excessively huge with a measure of 180 cm × 180 cm.

What makes The Kiss so famous?

During that period, a visual representation of two love birds that illuminate a spiritual and erotic love grabs the attention of the audience, making it famous among the romantic paintings.

Why was The Kiss controversial?

The Kiss was controversial due to the eroticism, lust, and sexuality depicted in the painting, which left the audience with a feeling of awe.

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