Pop Culture Work Inspired By Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”

The Art Nouveau masterpiece titled “The Kiss” was painted by Austrian Symbolist artist, Gustav Klimt. The work was completed between 1907-1908, during the height of Klimt’s “Golden Period,” where he produced a number of works of a similar style.

The painting is on a square canvas. It’s created with conventional oil paint mixed with layers of gold leaf. It is one of today’s most recognizable works with plenty of reproductions available–many of them with the negative space to the right and left of the two central figures removed. What is left is a rectangular composition highlighting the embracing lovers.

The number of objects this image has been printed on is too numerous to list. You can find the kissing couple on mugs, necklaces, t-shirts, water bottles, and so much more. This list is composed of objects found with just a quick scan of one page on CafePress. Without a doubt, the most prolific item featuring “The Kiss” is the poster print, which is available in multiple sizes and dimensions, multiple crops and compositions, multiple surfaces (paper, canvas, wood, etc). Surely if there is something you want, and you’re determined to have this work printed on it, you’ll likely find it.

“The Kiss” was even commemorated on the back of a special collectors Austrian 100 euro, “Painting Gold Coin” issued on November 5, 2003 (only 30,000 of these were minted).


Below are pop culture derivative works inspired by Klimt’s Art Nouveau masterpiece. Regardless of the liberties each artist took to reproduce this inspired work, the referenced masterpiece is unquestionable. It’s evident that not all aspects that seem intrinsic to the very fame of the original piece are required for the homage to be successful either–sometimes only referencing the gold patterns are enough, sometimes the composition of the bodies will do, sometimes the emotions depicted in the hands and the faces bring it all home… and well then, of course, there’s the kiss.

Elfen Lied The Kiss

The anime “Elfin Lied” actually began this particular homage post. I watched the first 3 episodes some time ago and was amazed to see how much the intro fully embraced Klimt’s gold period in general. The 13-episode series is produced by ARMS and broadcast on Tokyo TV. Of course, the actual show had nothing to do with this artistic choice… at all…

If anything, the main female character of the series goes from being a gratuitously nude killing machine, delivering bloody violence to her captors as she seeks freedom, to fragile and sexually naive absurdity once she “switches off” the violent persona. This was for most of the first episode. The unfortunate nature of anime like this, to me, is that it degrades my willingness to give the series a chance by nearly 100%.

Short rant aside, the intro offers a beauty and romance that the series itself throws into a grinder between the intro and credit roll.

The wonderful music in the intro was created by series composer Takao Yoshioka.

Elektra The Hand 5 2004

Here’s the cover to Elektra: The Hand #5, written by Akira Yoshida and released by Marvel Comics in February 2005. This art is done by Gossett Christian and features Elektra in an embrace with Kagenobu. The cool colours in this piece replace the warm colours of the original. The oriental motif still works to flatten the composition, but the lines and shapes are more dynamic. The figures are more refined as well, and carry with them just enough comic art aesthetic to make the whole piece work as a successful comic cover (which is offered as a print on art.com and other similar sites).


Sticking with the comic book subject matter, here’s a piece featuring the Man of Steel and his love, Lois Lane, while hovering over Metropolis. Titled “The Super Kiss,” by Puerto Rican artist Daniel Irizarri Oquendo, it keeps the figures more defined and refrains from the pattern-heavy design of the original by only suggesting a transparent pattern texture showing through Superman’s red areas.

Oquendo always wanted to create an homage to “The Kiss,” and this was his entry for “The Line,” a project that mixed superheroes with famous works of art. It was the excuse he was looking for “to rip off Klimt” as he puts it. The Superman/Lois kiss while in flight is a hard iconic subject to beat!

Skellington Meets Klimt by opheliact

Fourth up, here’s a piece done by artist opheliact, based on Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. She wasn’t timid about grabbing the patterns themselves right off the Klimt’s original work. She, instead, turned her focus to replacing the original lovers with Jack Skellington and Sally, and morphing the bottom surface they stand on into the squiggly Tim Burton landscape aesthetic.

Han and Leia The Kiss

Finally, we have “The Kiss (Han & Leia),” by t-shirt graphic designer AJ Paglia. This can be found on TeeFury for purchase. It’s remarkable that Paglia was able to retain the standard expressive hands component famous in the work of Gustav Klimt, even while depicting Leia’s hand as being armed while in the arms of Han Solo (I think I cramped my mind on that sentence).

Paglia also gives insights regarding the production of this design: “In college, every girl I knew had the Gustav Klimt “Kiss” print either hanging up in her dorm room or plastered as her laptop’s wallpaper. I’m sure some just liked the composition, but the majority was wooed by the romance of the scene. This is the romance print for the nerds.”

Star Wars Kiss James Hance

This kiss is indeed on the geek-radar! This piece is by the prolific pop culture mashup artist James Hance. He crops the original layout significantly to really draw attention to the faces and hands–the only rendered forms. The surface of this composition is filled with colour and pattern, which only helps to define Han and Leia in the top half of the art.

Image Credits:
Austrian 100 Euro Coin: [Wikipedia]
Elfen Lied Image: [26l.com]
Elektra: Hand Cover: [Marvel]
The Super Kiss by Daniel irizarri Oquendo: [DeviantArt.com]
Skellington Meets Klimt by opheliact: [DeviantArt.com]
The Kiss (Han & Leia) by AJ Paglia: [TeeFury.com]
The Star Wars Kiss by James Hans: [JamesHance.com]