The Hilma af Klint Day Thread (October 26, 2020)

Swedish artist (1862-1944) Hilma af Klint was an abstract artist before the term existed. She created incredible paintings years before more famous practitioners in the movement such as Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Klee; and whilst their steps towards abstraction were timid yet touted, af Klint raced ahead, a true pioneer. Her name was forgotten for decades, however.

After graduating from the Royal Academy in Stockholm in 1887, she supported herself by painting landscapes and portraits, but she was drawn to the world of spiritualism. She joined the Theosophical Society in 1889 and in 1896 established a group of female artists called the Five, who each Friday met to pray, make automatic writing and attempt to communicate with other worlds through seances.

In 1906 she began creating radical art without precedent in painting. Inspired by automatic writing, she drew and painted without consciously guiding her movements – a method not practised by the surrealists until decades later.

Af Klint explained, “The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings, and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict; nevertheless I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.”

Whilst her contemporaries exhibited widely and went on to world fame, af Klint had been convinced by the “Higher Ones” she communicated with during her seances that the world was not ready to understand her work. When she passed aged 81, she stipulated that her work – over a thousand paintings and a hundred notebooks – would not be displayed in public for at least two decades. Sadly as a result, she faded into obscurity until 1986, when the first exhibition of her work finally brought attention to her fantastical, visionary art. The history of abstract art needs to be completely re-written to remember this woman.

BEYOND THE VISIBLE: Hilma af Klint is a German documentary, directed by Halina Dyrschka, which sheds light on the life and work of this brilliant woman.

Have a great day and remember to take care of yourselves, everyone!