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Modern and contemporary art

Video transcript

we're in the Belvedere and Vienna and we're looking at Gustav Klimt the kiss from 1908 probably the most famous Klimt and actually have to admit that I had forgotten that the painting was almost a perfect square because I've seen it in so many posters where it's been cut down and made into a rectangle it's a very large painting and there's so much gold that it's hard not to think of a religious icon and I think in some ways Klimt was trying to create an modern icon something that suggested a sense of transcendence well there's no question that the gold here makes you think of the Byzantine tradition maybe some of the tile work at Ravenna there is the way that patterning especially around the faces becomes a kind of halo as well you have Klimt building up the gold he's got those gold circles they actually rise off the surface of them and catch the light much the way that the gold is told in medieval paintings there is the sense of the male figure of patterns that are directly linear in contrast to the curvilinear to the circles and the ovals that we see in the female form at the point that you made about the sense of the spiritual is so powerful as painting I think we forget that that darker gold ground seems so much as if the figures are somehow being dissipated into the cosmos that they are so lost in the intensity the Eternity of that kiss and all removed from the everyday world and you have to remember that this is a time of incredible modernization in Vienna City of Vienna's has been transformed in the previous 30 years into a modern city here Klimt is abstracting a universal experience from the trauma the difficulties the anxieties of everyday life I think it's also important to see this in relationship to Klimt Beethoven frieze where the figures confront evil forces these mythic figures and in the end there's this embrace this kiss this emergence from evil into fulfillment perfection a minute ago we were looking at the painting by Egon Schiele called the embrace but there there was so much more of a sense of the physicality of the bodies the way that the body is really aren't present here and are cloaked in these decorative forms reminds us how much Klimt although muse exploring this kind of sensuality was also disguising that are covering it with a kind of decorative patterning and that's absolutely right with the exception of the faces and here this is where the entire painting changes the female figure is completely full frontal but horizontal so there's this beautiful sense of purpose if 'ti receiving that kiss but also a kind of deep interior feeling with her eyes closed her fingers just delicately touching his as he holds her head and his neck reaches out and around and you get a sense of his physical power through the strength of that neck but also the intensity of his desire and of course they're both ground is on his head you can see a wreath of leaves on hers almost as if they were the stars of the heavens Sheela gives us an image of a couple that's electrified by kind of agitated outlines Sheela is showing us a kind of truth through the energy of the moment whereas Klimt seems to be reaching out to a truth that is for all time that is so aestheticized it feels as if it has a degree of absolute permanence you
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