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oil and gold leaf on canvas,
Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna,
Original size 180 cm × 180 cm
The Kuss is an oil painting on canvas in the subject of love. The adoption of bright colors and a great quantity of gold foil made it the best representative of Klimt paintings.
The Kuss depicts a couple of man and woman who are embracing and kneeling in the garden. Surrounded by the golden light, they look elegant. The colorful rays of light like the peacock spreading his tail sprinkle from the heels of the woman. The man holds the woman in his arms, kissing on her lip passionately. Being intoxicated with the kuss, the woman appears shyness and her expression and gesture seem that she want to stop the man's caress. The Kuss dealing with love is the master painting of Klimt.
It was painted soon after his three-part Vienna Ceiling series which created a scandal and were criticized as both 'pornography' and evidence of 'perverted excess'. The works had recast the artist as an enfant terrible for his anti-authoritarian and anti-popularist views on art. He wrote, "If you can not please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few". By contrast, The Kuss was enthusiastically received, and immediately found a buyer.
Klimt depicts the couple locked in intimacy, while the rest of the painting dissolves into shimmering, extravagant flat pattern. The patterning suggests the style of Art Nouveau and the organic forms of the Arts and Crafts movement. At the same time the background evokes the conflict between two- and three-dimensionality intrinsic to the work of Degas and other modernists. Paintings such as The Kuss were visual manifestations of fin-de-siecle spirit because they capture a decadence conveyed by opulent and sensuous images. The use of gold leaf recalls medieval "gold-ground" paintings and illuminated manuscripts, and earlier mosaics, and the spiral patterns in the clothes recall Bronze Age art and the decorative tendrils seen in Western art since before classical times. The man's head ends very close to the top of the canvas, a departure from traditional Western canons that reflects the influence of Japanese prints, as does the very simplified composition.