Ever wonder when, where, how, who started the concept of abstract art? Who were the pioneers? We all know the famous names of Kandinsky and Mondrian, but did you know of the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint?

Between 1896 and her death in 1944, Hilma painted over 1000 abstracts works and bequeathed them not to be shown until 20 years after her death. Eventually, in 1970, they were handed over to the Stockholm Modern Art gallery, however they were declined!

It was 42 years after her death, an art historian uncovered her work in 1986 and now, her work has travelled the greatest Modern Art Galleries of the world from New York and back to Stockholm.

As viewers we are only now becoming aware of the engaging mystic art of Hilma af Klint.

She was motivated by theological debate, spiritual experimentation and mystical beliefs. Hilma was one of a group of five female artists who conducted seances and were known as “The Five”. A publication of their philosophy to painting was recently published and includes the quote by one artist Gregor:

“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”.

 

Hilma af Klint - untitled 1 Hilma af Klint - untitled 2

 

Hilma af Klint - swans

 

Personally, I am inspired!

I saw one image for the first time today .. I was drawn into its essence! Its color, its movement, its simple modernist nature. And then was surprised by its age, being female, Swedish, unknown yet so commanding.

I admire and wonder, how does an artist break all moulds, conventions and pursue relentlessly an ideal which was never endorsed or accepted until half a century after her death?

What on earth maintains 40 years of 1000 paintings .. dedication with no affirmation, no positive feedback or any acknowledgement to such devotion to research?

Hilma af Klint 3

 

Hilma af Klint - untitled 3

 Hilma af Klint, congratulations to you!

 

Her work is now recognized as being the “Swedish pioneer that threatens to upend long-held views about the origins of 20th-century abstract art.”

Art historians and professors are all perplexed. Excerpts from a recent article in The New York Times, April 2013:

“She was doing something that was not on the retina of people at her time, in terms of size, color, composition and, of course, the abstraction — she was very much a pioneer.” said Iris Müller-Westermann, curator.

“She developed somehow outside the art scene of the time, so I think we need to learn more about her intentions as an artist,” Georg Imdahl, Art Professor.

“In which box does this strange artist belong?” Ms. Müller-Westermann said of reactions to af Klint’s works. “Is she in the same box as Kandinsky and all the abstract pioneers, or maybe it’s easier to say it’s not art at all, just some woman who did something crazy?”

Finally it was also cited, the difficulties women faced in gaining recognition in an art world largely defined by men, and circumspection toward art with connections to the mystical and occult. “‘Spiritual’ is still a very dirty word in the art world,” Mr. Tuchman.

 

Hilma af Klint - untitled 5

 

Visitors to the gallery are greeted by curlicues, snail-like spirals, geometric flowers, concentric circles, Venn diagrams and phrases in cursive script — all intertwined and juxtaposed on 10 canvases 3.2 meters, or more than 10 feet, tall and 2.4 meters wide. The works, featuring bubble-gum pink, burnt orange, peach, lavender, dusty blues and bright yellows, were at once enticing, playful and slightly trippy.

“It’s pretty extraordinary to imagine this rather small woman, 157 centimeters tall or so, doing these huge paintings,” said Iris Müller-Westermann, curator.

 

Hilma af Klint 4

Hilma af Klint

 

Excerpt from Moderna Museet Stockholm

Born 1862, died 1944.

Inspired by the new spirituality of the late 1800s, and with an interest in the esoteric and the occult, Hilma af Klint created a complex body of work and was a forerunner of non-objective art. She studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm between 1882 and 1889, focusing at first on landscapes and later on portrait painting. In 1906, her style changed, and she subsequently devoted herself to an abstract imagery, preceding artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich.

She was guided by a spiritual dimension in executing these works. She acted as a medium: “The pictures were painted through me directly, without preparatory sketches, and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict, and yet I worked fast and unhesitatingly, without altering one brush stroke.”

Hilma af Klint - abstract pioneer

I hope you enjoyed discovering this artist.

ALWAYS THE ARTIST

Dina