to be an object of desire

A Repository Of Time
3 min readMay 2, 2022

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The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

“That is the worst moment, when you feel you have lost / The desires for all that was most desirable, / Before you are contented with what you can desire; / Before you know what is left to be desired; / And you go on wishing that you could desire / What desire has left behind.”⁣

⁣- T. S. Eliot⁣

to be an object of desire⁣
to be most desirable⁣

⁣but to give a man his contentment ⁣
is to have nothing left to be desired;

you could desire
what desire has left behind

your desires⁣
left behind.⁣

“The expression and posture of Klimt’s female subject must be taken into consideration. While some historians have read her craning neck and closed eyes as signs of sexual ecstasy, others have noted that she might be attempting to pull away from the man, who could be seen as trying to overtake or eclipse her. During his life, Klimt held a reputation as a Casanova. More recently, his erotic work — especially his drawings — have been labeled as misogynistic. Still, others have noted how tenderly Klimt depicted this woman, as an angelic protagonist rather than a dangerous femme fatale — a typology explored in many of his other paintings, such as Judith and the Head of Holofernes.”

— An extract from an Artsy Editorial, titled: “Klimt’s Iconic “Kiss” Sparked a Sexual Revolution in Art” by Alexxa Gotthardt.

“Even though some contemporary academics such as Frank Whitford interpreted Klimt’s voluptuous depiction of female nudes as misogynistic, I argue that Klimt’s provocative representations of female nudity introduced an unorthodox visual discourse of women’s sexuality into the public domain. By highlighting the complexity and autonomy of women, his work epitomized the liberating power of female sexuality which were symbolically annihilated in the art establishment of his age — he transformed women’s naked bodies into the visual conveyance of his feminist insights. Moreover, his allegorical portraits of naked Femme Fatale not only ennobled the power of female sex but also unclosed the chasm between social ideals and individual identity — a chasm that would expand and eventually propel the feminist of following generations to fight for transformation and liberation.”

“Accusing Klimt’s erotic depictions of women as sexist, some bolstered this charge by emphasizing Klimt’s reputation as a “Casanova” — the man who has many lovers, exploiting both women’s body and mind. The habitual womanizing of Klimt is irrefutable: Though he was never married, Klimt fathered several children, fourteen potential of them emerging after he died at 55 of a stroke induced by syphilis. However, I don’t regard Klimt’s engagement of multiple affairs with women as impairing my interpretation of his eroticism of female nudity as a feminist approach. Instead, his complicated relationship verifies Klimt’s fascination toward women’s beauty by not only devoting himself to become its disciple in art but also surrendering to be dominated under the spell of female sexuality. Also, in an age when female sexuality was perceived as a threat, Klimt’s arduous engagement in creating visual representations of counter-idealized female nudity provoked charges of obscenity, which resulted in his restriction from the public commission, a fundamental source of sustenance of artist. Thus, Klimt’s liberating eroticism of women should not be questioned as being a decisive step in the modernization of Viennese society which fostered the First Wave Feminism to blossom later.”

— Extracts from the article: “An Empowering Tale of Femme Fatales: Gustav Klimt’s Female Eroticism” by: Essie.L

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