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Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Kiss

The Kiss, 1907, Gustav Klimt, the $135-million kiss.
The Kiss, 1908, Constantin Brancusi
When art people think of kissing, the probably don't immediately bring to mind Gustav Klimt or Auguste Rodin, but then again, the really arty among us maybe do eventually. It would be a toss-up as to which work of art comes to mind first, Rodin's erotic marble sculpture (below) or Klimt's gold leaf lovers (above), which legend contends he and his companion at the time, Emilie Flöge, modeled for. It that was the case, there must have been some photography involved or some rather unromantic solitary posing. Rodin certainly did not pose for his Kiss and it's uncertain whether he even used a model for the female figure. There's no record of it, in any case. By the way, Rodin carved two copies of the original and there exists some 319 bronze castings of the duo. Another carved version of The Kiss (left) by Constantin Brancusi (obviously a cubist) was created in 1908, some twenty years after Rodin's piece. It would appear marble kisses had come a long with in that interval.

The Kiss, 1889, Auguste Rodin. The top two are the most commonly photographed angles.
Of course, Rodin and Klimt were not the first nor last to depict the meeting of lips as a celebration of love. The Medieval painter, Giotto may have been one of the first and, shockingly, his kiss did not involve a man and a women. His kiss depicts, not love, but betrayal. He painted it around 1305 with the title, The Kiss of Judas (below) for the Scrovegni Chapel, in Padua, Italy. It's considered one of his greatest masterpieces.

The Kiss of Judas, 1304-06, Giotto
The Kiss, 1897-98,
Edvard Munch
Just about every famous painter since Giotto has painted his or her own version of The Kiss. Picasso painted at least two (below), one from the mid-1920s, the other, lesser known (and not without good reason), is undated. About the same time, Edvard Munch, while not "screaming" was apparently "kissing" as see in his woodcut print from around 1897-98 (right). Toulouse-Lautrec weighed in with his version of The Kiss (below, left) in 1893.
The Kiss, 1893, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Pablo Picasso finds The Kiss to be an abstract concept.
In the early 1940s, it's likely the most popular "kiss" was not painted on canvas but on the motion picture screen featuring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. It was "painted" by David O. Selznick and Victor Fleming, titled not "The Kiss" but Gone With The Wind (below) accompanied by Rhett Butler's words: "No, I don't think I will kiss you, though you need kissing, and often; and by someone who knows how." Though the scene below is the most iconic, as the dialogue suggests, the kiss itself didn't actually occur until more than an hour later in the film, after Rhett Butler had proposed marriage.

The 1939 kiss, painted by David O. Selznick and Victor Fleming in Gone With The Wind.
The Kiss, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt
Also during the 1940s, WW II entailed a great deal of kissing as servicemen left for Europe or the Pacific. However, the most famous kiss from the war came on VJ Day, August 14, 1945, set in New York's Times Square, when photographer Alfred Eisen-staedt captured an amorous sailor and a bystanding nurse in a lip-locked clinch to rival forever anything carved by Rodin or painted by Klimt. Notice the, no doubt, envious sailor and the elderly ladies in the background enjoying the historic moment. A little more than a decade later, a kiss took on a comic flavor as seen in Pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein's The Kiss (below) from 1962.

The Kiss, 1962, Roy Lichtenstein
For those wondering why I'm such an expert on kisses, I've painted a few during my own career too. My favorite was not titled "The Kiss" but could have been. I called it A Man for All Seasons (below), painted, as near as I can recall, about 1980. It depicts in a montage a single teenaged boy kissing each of his girlfriends over the course of a year. Perhaps, like Rodin, I should have made a number of copies. It sold within just a few weeks.

Copyright, Jim Lane
A Man for All Seasons, ca. 1980, Jim Lane


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