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Gustav Klimt, The Kiss, 1907-08, oil and gold leaf on canvas, 180 × 180 cm, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna. Source

Klimt’s ‘Golden Period’ is undoubtedly his most famous, though it is specifically this richly patterned composition that comes to mind when the artist’s name is mentioned; at least, it certainly does for me. The Kiss depicts a man and woman in a tight embrace, surrounded by flat patterns in green and gold that were inspired by Byzantine mosaics. The identity of the pair has never been confirmed, though many believe Klimt painted himself with his partner Emilie Flöge for the intimate painting. What we do know is that The Kiss was executed at a time when Klimt was in poor favour with the Austrian public: his three-part ‘Vienna Ceiling’ series caused great scandal for its inclusion of nudity, but The Kiss, which was painted soon after, restored the artist back to his former glory. It was so well received, in fact, that the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna purchased the canvas before it was even completed.

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