The Kiss, 1907 by Gustav Klimt

Today, The Kiss is one of the most famous images made in the twentieth century. Frequently reproduced, it encapsulates love in a single, beautiful image. The rapt face of the woman, the protective adoration of her lover and their oblivion to everything else portray a perfect love with universal resonance; it is hardly surprising that the painting has become so popular.

Now here is Klimt's use of ornament to signify sexuality more important than here, although it had been explored before in Fulfillment. The man's form is filled erect squares and rectagles, while his lover's is composed of concentric circles and spirals. The eventual outcome of such a passionate kiss could hardly be more explicit.

Both figures are fully realized and symbolically blended as they face the golden abyss of perfection. The dominant male force is signified by the powerful coat of masculine black and gray blocks, softened by the feminine organic scrolling, reminiscent of Tree of Life. In comparison, female energy is shown as spinning circles of bright floral motifs and upward-flowing wavy lines. From these vestments of artistic creation golden rain blesses the fertile earth, similar to the descending roses in The Beethoven Frieze.

The Kiss is Klimt's artistic response to the Byzantine mosaics at Ravenna, Italy, which so profoundly affected him.