On July 13, we celebrate 155 years since the birth of Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. He marked the beginning of the so-called Vienna Secession art movement.
The Three Ages of Woman, Desire for Happiness, Adam and Eve - Klimt's famous paintings are many. But there is one that is unmatched in terms of popularity. And that is The Kiss.
Gustav Klimt's The Kiss is a deceptively simple representation of love. It has transformed into a symbol of early Modernism and bears many secrets.
While he was working on his unique painting, Klimt was going through a crisis. Before beginning work on it, Klimt had been painting nudes on the ceiling of one of the lecture halls at the University of Vienna. Critics put him in distress - describing his work as "pornographic". With The Kiss, the Austrian painter was able to mend his marred reputation, this time being hailed as emblematic by critics.
Klimt's painting was sold before it was even finished. The Austrian central gallery exhibited The Kiss for the first time in 1908, prior to its completion. In essence, this hindered the Belvedere museum from purchasing it from the gallery. However, in its desire to add it to its collection immediately, the museum made an irresistible offer.
For The Kiss, the Belvedere museum shelled out 25 000 Austro-Hungarian krones, which comes out to $240 000. Before that, the highest sum paid for a painting in Austria was 500 krones, or about $4 800.
Having obtained the painting, the Belvedere museum had no intention of reselling. Ever. Austria considers The Kiss a national treasure. But even if there comes a day when it's sold, it is believed that the sum for it would be record-breaking. In 2006, one of Klimt's other masterpieces - Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was sold for $135 million - the greatest sum given for a painting at the time.
It is purported that Klimt gained the inspiration for his painting during his travels. He used Byzantine mosaic, while adding gold to his paints. In so doing, he laid the foundations for his characteristic style.
In The Kiss, as is the case in many world-famous paintings, the identities of the individuals in them are a mystery. Some believe it to be a self-portrait. The most widespread theory is that it depicts the fashion model Emilie Flöge - the long-term lover of the painter - and himself.
The Kiss impresses with its size, measuring 71″ (180 cm) x 71″ (180 cm), laid out over 3.24 sq m (34.8 sq ft). The original is a perfect square. But since it's often used on posters, scarves, cufflinks etc., it is typically cropped on both sides to obtain its standard rectangular form.
One of the modern uses of the The Kiss is on coins. In 2003, Austria released a commemorative 50 euro coin, with a portrait of Klimt on one side and his famous painting on the other.
Klimt's The Kiss is on its way to superseding Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. It is much larger, while its golden leaf draws the eye. The aesthetic aspects throw us into deep contemplation about what lies beneath the obvious.