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Painted by Gustav Klimt between 1907 and 1908 at the height of his “golden period” — named as such for his liberal use of gold flake — “The Kiss” eloquently encapsulates the heady and decadence days of fin-de-siècle Vienna before the onset of World War I. Perfectly straddling the two centuries’ artistic concerns, Klimt’s “The Kiss” is the bridging point between nineteenth century Symbolism and the headlong rush into twentieth-century modernity. As the leading figure of the influential Vienna Secession movement, Klimt successfully oversaw a period of aesthetic and technical upheaval wherein the rules of the Academy were turned on their head. The painter’s impassioned figures are presented as gilded objects of mutual luxury, frozen in an act of intense emotion. Their forms seem to stand as a rejection of any sense of romantic sentimentality — their love is purely physical, stripped bare of the prudence of the rapidly departing age of the uptight. Indicating a sense of total abandonment and impending pleasure, Klimt positions his viewers in a sense of awkward anticipation. Drawing on the rich characterization of Japanese woodblock printing, “The Kiss” is as much a work of design as it is a work of classical painting. It was this decorative dimension that gave life to the era of Art Nouveau in architecture, interior design, and painting, a style that embraced the decadent luxuries of the aspirational classes. Klimt gave to his era something rarely seen before: a sense of glamour and dizzy splendor that set the tone for the upcoming century of fashion.