March 12, 2016–Hilma af Klint


Hilma af Klint was one of the first abstract painters of the 20th century, though it is only lately that she is recognized for it.

Hilma af Klint was born in Sweden in 1862. She was an artist and a mystic, known for her abstract paintings, creating most of her body of work before Kandinsky, one of the so-called pioneers of the movement, ever made his first brushstroke on what we officially called abstract work.

As a girl, Klint spent summers with her family at their farm Hanmora on the island of Adelsö in Lake Mälaren. In these idyllic surroundings Hilma came into contact with nature and developed a deep association with natural forms was to be an inspiration in her work. From her father she adopted an interest in mathematics.

In 1880 her younger sister Hermina died and it was at this time that the spiritual dimension of her life began to develop.

She  studied at the Academy of Fine Arts  in Stockholm for five years during which time she learned portraiture and landscape painting . Here she met Anna Cassel, the first of the four women with whom she later worked in The Five  (de fem).

The Five were a group of women artists who shared her belief in the importance of trying to make contact with the so-called “high masters.” Seances were a common practice. One higher spirit known as Gregor spoke thus: all the knowledge that is not of the senses, not of the intellect, not of the heart but is the property that exclusively belongs to the deepest aspect of your being…the knowledge of your spirit.

Her work with The Five is fascinating in principle and in manifestation of her work. Klint’s  paintings which sometimes resemble diagrams, are a visual representation of the complex spiritual ideas she held.


Hilma af Klint.

Klint’s paintings arose out of this source of spirit. The inner and the outer worlds interact and create meaning. They leave me dazzled and crushed by the sudden realization of how impoverished I’ve been without her kind of visual exploration in my life. But really, what does that sentence mean? I simply crave what she puts on the canvas.

Klint’s body of work amounted to over 1200 paintings and 100 texts by her death in 1944. At her request, none of it was to be shown until 20 years after the end of her life. In 1970 her paintings were offered as a gift to Moderna Museet in Stockholm, which declined the donation.

Thanks to the art historian Åke Fant her art was introduced to an international audience in the 1980s. He first presented her at a Nordik conference in Helsinki in 1984, and then wrote a catalog entry to the 1986 exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The spiritual in art: abstract painting 1890-1985. In 2005-2006 her work was shown in some major museums in the exhibition 3 x Abstraction curated by Catherine de Zegher, together with artists Agnes Martin and Emma Kunz.

Currently, Klint’s work is currently on view at the exhibit Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen at the Serpentine Galleries in London from March 3, to May 15, 2016.


One Comment on “March 12, 2016–Hilma af Klint

  1. Pingback: Women’s History Month 2016–My Anthology of Amazing Women | GRAMPUS

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