Happy International Women’s Day! What better way to celebrate than with a magnificent figure: Hilma af Klint (1862-1944).
As with many forces of nature, af Klint didn’t want recognition and instead opted for her main Works to be made public 20 years after her death. Quiet yet mighty. A complete power move by the founder of the abstract painting movement. Kandinsky (1866-1944) often gets cited as the founding father of the movement. Yet Hilma pioneered this style long before Mondrian (1872-1944) and Kandinsky. Both personal favourites when it comes to abstract artists, when I was younger. That’s a side note and today is not about them… I’ve jumped ahead and missed chunks of af Klint’s story, so grab a cup of tea and let’s start at the beginning. Also much like Frida, I’m going to refer to this exceptional artist by first name, adding to the familiarity and for us to get intimate with her Works.
Hilma was born in Sweden in 1862. She was raised, socialised and studied in smart regions of the time. She was encouraged to explore the world around her and seek an education. Consequently, the artist and mystic was able to have earnings from her artworks. Yet not her ‘life’s work’, which was published posthumously, as previously mentioned.
Here is a useful timeline
Hilma af Klint is born at Karlberg Palace (Karlbergs slott), Stockholm, on October 26, 1862.
The family moves to Norrtullsgatan and later to Bastugatan (Sveavägen today) in Stockholm. The family spends summers at the family mansions Hanmora and Täppan in the estate of Tofta gård on Adelsö in the lake Mälaren.
Hilma af Klint attends the General School for Girls (Normalskolan för flickor) on Riddargatan in Stockholm.
Participates in spiritistic séances.
Attends The Technical School (Tekniska Skolan, today’s University College of Arts, Crafts and Design or Konstfack) in Stockholm, and studies portrait painting for Kerstin Cardon. Her sister Hermina dies at the age of 10, which spurs Hilma af Klint’s religious involvement.
Attends the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Kungl. Konstakademien). Graduates with honors, and is awarded a studio in the “Atelier Building” (Ateljéhuset) at the crossing between Hamngatan and Kungsträdgården in Stockholm. Her fellow Anna Cassel becomes her life time friend.
Works as a portraitist and landscape painter.
Becomes member of the Teosophical Society, founded the same year in the house of the Swedish writer Viktor Rydberg in Stockholm.
Member of the Edelweiss Society.
First annotations by the group “The Five”, that Hilma af Klint has founded with four other friends.
The group holds séances and exercises automatic drawings. They make contact with spirits, whom they call “The High Ones”.
Her father dies.
Hilma af Klint moves to an apartment on Brahegatan 52, Stockholm, together with her mother.
Works as a draughtsman for the Veterinary Institute.
During a séance with “The Five”, she is told that she will be commissioned to carry out paintings on the astral plane.
With the guidance of the spirit Amaliel, spends one year of cleansing and preparation for the commission.
Paints 26 paintings, which constitute the first preparatory group of the “Paintings for the Temple”.
Paints the first 111 pieces of the “Paintings for the Temple”.
Meets Rudolf Steiner for the first time in Stockholm 1908. He is unable to decipher the paintings and claims that no one during the coming 50 years will be able to.
Her mother becomes blind. Hilma af Klint gives up her studio at Hamngatan and moves to a studio in a building on Brahegatan in Stockholm.
A four-year pause in her work on “The Paintings for the Temple” begins.
Refrains from landscape- and portrait painting.
Rents the villa Furuheim on the Bona property, located on the island Munsö in the archipelago of the lake Malären, owned by the family Giertta.
Participates in the world congress of the Theosophical Society in Stockholm.
Exhibits naturalistic paintings at the Baltic exhibition in Malmö – where also W. Kandinsky exhibits artworks.
In 1912 resumes working on the “Paintings for the Temple”.
1912-1915 she paints 82 pieces, and concludes the “Paintings for the Temple” in 1915 (193 paintings in total).
Through several series of paintings, Hilma af Klint pursues her studies of various aspects, represented as metaphysical pictures.
To these belong the series “Parsifal”, and “Atoms”, as well as studies of religions, plants, animals, lichen, mosses, minerals, precious stones, etc.
The construction of the atelier with religious connotations is completed at Munsö close to Furuheim, on land belonging to the Bona property. The paintings are shown for a few selected people.
Moves to villa Furuheim with her mother and her nurse, Thomasine Andersson.
Her mother dies.
Moves to Helsingborg (Karl X Gustafs gata) during the winter together with Thomasine Andersson.
Becomes member of the Antroposophical Society.
First trip to Dornach, Switzerland.
Spends periods in Dornach.
Studies the Theory of Colors of Goethe.
In 1922, begins watercolor painting.
No annotations nor dated paintings remain from these years.
Donates the fundamental studies of flowers, mosses and lichen to the scientific library in Dornach.
This collection was a major part of the esoteric systematization system of nature, developed by Hilma af Klint.
This collection seems to have disappeared.
Paints “The Blitz over London” and “The Mediterranean Naval Battle”, which would take place during the Second World War, seven years later.
Moves to Lund, Grönegatan 28.
Anna Cassel dies.
Thomasine Andersson dies.
Moves to her cousin Hedvig af Klint in Ösby, Djursholm, Stockholm.
Passes away on October 21, 1944 in the aftermath of a traffic accident, nearly 82 years old.
She leaves behind approximately 1300 paintings and 125 note- and sketchbooks (in total approximately 26,000 pages), which according to her will shall not be shown until at least twenty years after her death.
To see more of what the Hilma af Klint Foundation does, click here.
If you’re in Berlin you can see 58 artworks in an exhibition at Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany. On until this Sunday March 10, 2019.
If you’re in New York City the Guggenheim Museum has (167 paintings and 7 notebooks) as part of the exhibition titled Hilma af Klint : Paintings for the Future *.Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA. Until April 23, 2019
Link to the Press Release here (in PDF format) issued by the Hilma af Klint Foundation.