abstract art, Art, Art History, Artists, Painters, Who was/is

A true pioneer

Hilma af Klint was a Swedish artist. She had developed an abstract imagery several years before Kandinsky, who was known for a long time the pioneer of abstract art. To her there was a spiritual dimension to live and she intended to represent in her art the contexts beyond what a human eye can see. Through her paintings she aimed to understand and communicate the various dimensions of human existence.

She believed that painting was a way to contact with a higher consciousness. As many of her contemporaries, she was very influenced by spiritual movements as spiritualism, theosophy and anthroposophy.

Eftersommar_Hilma_af_Klint_1903- late summer
Late summer by Hilma af Klint, 1903 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hilma af Klint began her art studies in Stockholm at the Tekniska Skolan. In 1882 she started as a student in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, after the graduation she had a studio in Stockholm where she painted especially portraits and landscapes, by that time her work was closer to the naturalist style.

In 1896, she and other four women artists formed a group known as De Fem, “the Five” in English. They were interested in spiritistic séances, according to them it was in these séances where they could contact “high masters” from another dimension. This made a deep and definite change in Hilma af Klint’s work. She started to practice the automatic writing, also she developed a form of automatic drawing, predating the surrealists in decades. She started to eschew the naturalist imagery, in a will to free herself of the academic training.

They tens mainstay IV by Hilma af Klint (Photo credit: Wikiart)

This interest in the spiritual was very common among the artists of that time as Kandinsky, Malevich, Kupka and Mondrian. They wanted to surpass all the restrictions of the physical world. And the abstract, non-figurative art, opened up to them a completely new way of expression, it forced them to find a new path in art, beyond of the simple visual representation of the world.

Hilma af Klint developed a non-representational aesthetics, very similar to that used by the members of the abstract movement in Central and Western Europe, however there is no evidence that she participated in any group. To her, the contact with spiritual guides (who communicated to her and inspired her) were real and allowed her to visualize inner processes as if she had experienced them through the impressions received from the world by the five senses.

She understood the uniqueness of her work so well that when she passed away in 1944, in her will she specified that her life’s work should be kept secret for at least 20 years after her death.

Her international debut was with the exhibition The Spiritual in Art – Abstract Paintings 1890 – 1985, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1986.

Exhibition at Guggenheim Museum:

Until April 23 of next year is possible to visit the exhibition Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future at the Guggenheim Museum (NY). An exhibition organized by the Guggenheim Museum, New York, with the cooperation of the Hilma af Klint Foundation, Stockholm.