Presentation of Hilma af Klint: pioneer of abstract art

Eliott Honti
Publié le 19 July 2022
Presentation of Hilma af Klint: pioneer of abstract art

Although Vassily Kandinsky is considered to be the founder of abstract art, the history of art remains shrouded in mystery, which sometimes becomes clearer with time. This is the case of a woman, Hilma af Klint, a painter, who turns out to be the true pioneer of abstraction. A Swedish woman who produced a series of abstract paintings in 1906, four years before Kandinsky's watercolours. Meet Hilma af Klint, the pioneer of abstract art.

An unsettling youth

Hilma af Klint was born on 26 October 1862 at Karlberg Castle in Stockholm. Her father was a naval officer and mathematician, and she had four brothers and sisters. At the age of 18, she entered the Stockholm Technical Art School and then the Stockholm Academy of Fine Arts. She learned portraiture and landscape painting. However, her eighteenth birthday was also marked by the sudden death of her ten-year-old sister. This tragic event marked a turning point in Hilma's life: she took part in seances in order to communicate with her dead sister.

Spiritualism mixed with art

During her studies, Hilma af Klint joined a group of women artists who were passionate about the paranormal. They formed de Fem ("the five"). Since the death of her sister, Hilma has become interested in spirituality, which gradually blends with her art. Thus, Klint puts into practice the techniques she learned during her studies by painting traditional abstract landscapes, translating the materialization of the soul or the geometry of the universe.

Innovative design

She produced works such as "Paintings for the Temple", on which she worked for about ten years. It is a work composed of 193 canvases grouped in sub-series. The artist also painted another series: "The Ten Greatest" in 1907. In 1909, she met Rudolf Steiner, who introduced her to his own concept of art and influenced her creations. Hilma experimented with "automatic painting", which meant letting her subconscious guide her. She explored abstraction while pursuing her quest for spirituality through art.

A posthumous consecration

Klint was always ahead of her time. When she died in 1944, she left all her work to her nephew, Erik af Klint. Before her death, the artist told her that her works should not be revealed until 20 years after her death. Hilma had always hidden her work from the general public for fear of being misunderstood. In 1985, her work was shown in the exhibition The Spiritual in Art at the County Museum of Art in Los Angeles. Paintings were displayed alongside those of Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevich. However, when we look at the dates of her early abstract works, we see that Klint was well ahead of her time, meaning that she is the true pioneer of abstract art.

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