21st CENTURY ART, C.E. - B. C.

...the geometry is the light...

Rosalyn Cherry-Soleil

A needlepoint based on Gustav Klimt's


20 x 29"

How did I live fifty years without knowing Gustav Klimt's THE KISS?


When I first saw a print of THE KISS, I stared at it in awe. The profusion of circles, swirls, rectangles, flowers, and entwined bodies -- everything two-dimensional, yet the faces and hands painted with shading and depth! It left me speechless. A few years later, I visited the original painting of THE KISS in Vienna. Klimt's use of gold leaf for the clothing was spectacular, his brush strokes were bold and free. The painting was shown under a protective acrylic cover, emphasizing its delicacy.

The impulse to stitch THE KISS came to me one morning when I realized the blank wall opposite my bed needed a sensuous painting. Not someone else's, but my own.

I'll stitch THE KISS!

I suddenly knew I wanted to create Klimt's magnificent painting, to re-create it in my own medium, to stitch it in silks, velour, velvet, chenille, beads. I'd create their luxurious garments on my canvas, adorn their hair and plant the field of flowers where they, the lovers, knelt.

At first, I traced a print of THE KISS onto 18 mesh needlepoint canvas. Then, as luck would have it, I happened to find a painted needlepoint canvas of THE KISS -- but altered from the original. It was missing the field of flowers, her foot, and background space on the right side. But it was an excellent jumping off point, I could enlarge it and include the missing details.

I found a book about Klimt and photocopied THE KISS, enlarging it in several sections until each section was close in size to my painted canvas. In these "detail" copies, I could clearly see the subtle mix of colour. TO stitch the skin tones, I threaded colours together on the needle, creating an optic mix of colour.

I redrew the faces, the hands and many garment details by tracing from the photocopy onto tissue paper, then basting through the tracing on to my canvas with red thread and stitching within the red lines. Last, I removed the red threads when each area was complete. In the field of flowers, I used the detail copy of the field of flowers as a guide to pencil-draw floral groups, then used acrylics to sketch these groups on the canvas.

Most of the detail was done in the stitching rather than in the drawing or painting. All raised textural stitching was stitched first and filled in later with basket weave, allowing the detail to come forward.

I attached new canvas in two places: one horizontal piece across the bottom from just above her leg which included the field of flowers, another vertical piece at the right side to the original canvas and horizontally to the new canvas at the bottom. I attached the pieces as one would make a seam on a garment, sewing a running stitch with a heavy thread, then opening the seam, and trimming it to avoid extra bulk. Then I needlepointed through both canvas layers.

For two years I lived with Klimt as we created "our" piece. We consulted on techniques and interpretations as well as each of the fibers, stitches and colours to be used.

The piece now hangs in my bedroom and it continues to bring me as much joy living with it as it did in the process of planning, stitching and transforming it.

Rosalyn Cherry-Soleil
Image and text copyright © Rosalyn Cherry-Soleil 2004

Visit Rosalyn Cherry-Soleil's Stitchamaze It shows the wide ranging scope of her art
and hosts a guest section that contains one of the best international displays of needlepoint work available on the NET.

21st Century Art, C.E. - B.C., A Context

Copyright © Jan Haag 2004

Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: jhaag@u.washington.edu