This symbolist artist created The Kiss to coincide with his work entitled, Frieze of Life which is a series of paintings that show the different stages of the modern relationship. These paintings span 30 years, and The Kiss was the first painting in the series. Today The Kiss is housed in the Munch Museum, Oslo. At first glance, The Kiss appears to be a very simplistic painting which is that of a man and woman kissing. But on closer inspection, we note that their faces are blurred and have become one, symbolising their union.
The beginnings of The Kiss occurred during the years of 1888-89, when Munch focussed upon the subjects of love, relationships and romance. During this era he painted many variations of this theme, with couples in varying positions of embrace. The artwork reminds us of Gustav Klimt's The Kiss. What was a consistent presence within each painting, and which was present in the final painting that we all know today, is that of the vibrant and moving world outside the window, while the inside image of the kissing couple is forever frozen in time.
As we observe the painting, we are instantly drawn to the couple who are kissing. They appear to be surrounded by swirling darkness, with only the shaft of light from the small window illuminating their embrace. We also see the wide brush strokes on the canvas, that create the image of swirling faces merging into one. Although this painting is hugely romantic, in both time and subject matter, there is an underlying current of darkness, and perhaps secrecy, enhanced by the use of darkness in the image.
The Museum of Modern Art, stated that this element of darkness was due to the fact that Munch was ambivalent to matters of the heart and romance. Reinhold Hellerfinds, an art historian, also believed that the merging of the two faces was not a romantic image, but one that evoked death, due to a loss of identity and individual existence within the world. Many individuals within the dramatic and artistic fields have also voiced their opinion that the merging of the two faces is not a romantic depiction. The playwright, August Strindberg, echoed his opinion that the larger of the two individuals looked as though they were about to devour their lover.