The Kiss is one of the most iconic works from the twentieth century, and one of the most recognizable art works of all times. After visiting Byzantine mosaics in Ravenna and Venice in 1903, the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt became fascinated with the use of gold leaf in his paintings, which is when his “golden period” began. Paintings from this period of his art take on an appearance similar to medieval icons. The Kiss has a sense of horror vacui with the sheer amount of ornamentation present; no area is untouched by flowers or gold. The painting focuses on two young lovers, possibly Klimt and his partner Emilie Floege or his wife Adele Boch-Bauer, but the features are very similar to the faces of other women in his art, so it is difficult to identity them.
It captures the tenderness of love, a common theme in his other works. The woman rests her weight on the man, who gently cradles her face. They seem to be in a world completely apart from ours, anchored into a mound of flowers against a golden backdrop. The vibrant patterns and breathtaking colors make this painting incredibly popular; even before it was completely finished, the Austrian Gallery acquired it from Klimt. It currently resides in the Upper Belvedere Palace in Vienna, Austria.