Queen's University

Symbolism in Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss"


Queen’s classical literature and mythology expert Ross Kilpatrick recently uncovered two previously unnoticed allusions to myth and celestial images in the works of the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt.  This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Gustav Klimt's famous painting, "The Kiss" (1907). Generally regarded as symbolic, Dr. Kilpatrick has identified in it the mythical wedding of Ariadne and Dionysus, and a congruence between Klimt’s configuration of stephanotis flowers in Ariadne’s wedding crown and the observable stars of the Corona Borealis. Dionysus’s garland is of the god’s traditional ivy.  In another Klimt work, a portrait of Austrian pianist Josef Pembaur (1890), Dr. Kilpatrick notes that the seven stars in the upper border are similar in configuration to the seven stars of the constellation Pleiades. Groups of poets in both antiquity and the Renaissance had designated themselves as Pleiades, and Klimt’s portrait was commissioned to hang in a pub in Vienna where the Pembaur Gesellschaft, a group of admirers of the pianist, met on a regular basis. Dr. Kilpatrick is an interesting and informed speaker on mythological paintings.  
To arrange an interview contact Molly Kehoe, 613.533.2877, molly.kehoe@queensu.ca, Queen's News and Media Services.

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Last updated at 2:05 pm EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
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