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The Kiss


The k. k. Ministerium für Cultus und Unterricht (Ministry of Culture and Education) acquired Gustav Klimt’s monumental icon "Lovers" for the Moderne Galerie already during the 1908 Kunstschau,[1] upon unanimous recommendation of the art commission.[2] At nearly the same time, during their meeting on June 29, 1908, the art commission of the German section of the Moderne Galerie of the Kingdom of Bohemia, also decided to recommend acquisition of this painting for the Prague National Gallery.[3] The writer and art critic Berta Zuckerkandl celebrated the event in the "Wiener Allgemeinen Zeitung" in the following words: “An inexplicable absence is ultimately being redressed. The nearly inconceivable fact that Austria’ Moderne Galerie owns no representative works by Austria’s greatest master can finally be disposed of once and for all. It remained reserved for the Marchet ministry to overcome the Klimt-angst that has reigned in certain right-thinking bureaucratic circles.”[4] The exorbitant acquisition price—the sum was meant to be transferred to the artist in two equal payments[5]—was most likely understood as a type of “compensation payment,” with which Klimt should be compensated, as it were, for rejection of the so-called Faculty paintings and the injustice thus experienced. During the clarification of formalities for wrapping up the sale, Klimt travelled, as usual, to Lake Attersee and wrote on July 16, 1908 from his summer residence to the responsible ministerial secretary Max von Millenkovich-Morold, that he “naturally would complete the not-entirely-finished painting "Lovers" after the close of the exhibition, and would deliver it personally to the k. k. Ministry”.[6] In retrospect, Klimt’s optimistic prognosis proved to be a premature pronouncement as the first evidence of the painting’s completion and transfer of the second installment of the purchase price came in June 1909.[7] The physical introduction of Klimt’s "Lovers" in the inventory of the collection of the Moderne Galerie ultimately occurred on July 22, 1909.[8] — The first version of the painting, exhibited in the Kunstschau 1908 did, indeed, present an unfinished state. Klimt was so heavily involved with the organization and completion of the Kunstschau that he could no longer finish his main work in time; even though it was meant to serve as counterpart to the similar size painting "The Three Ages". Thus, at the close of the major exhibition, Klimt still had to add to the field of flowers in the left picture area and rework the ornamentation of the clothing. In the course of finishing the work he extended the lower leg of the kneeling person, since based on anatomy it had turned

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