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Hilma af Klint Artistic Journey of a Visionary

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Introduction to Hilma af Klint:

Hilma af Klint, a renowned Swedish artist, left an indelible mark on the art world with her innovative and abstract works. Born on October 26, 1862-1944, in Solna, Sweden, af Klint’s artistic genius was nurtured early. Her unique style, marked by spiritual influences and otherworldly themes, continues to captivate art enthusiasts across the globe. This article delves into af Klint’s background, childhood, family, and notable achievements and concludes with the exciting advent of her art as a virtual reality (VR) experience in New York.

Background and Childhood:

Hilma af Klint was born into a family deeply rooted in artistic and spiritual pursuits. Her father, Captain Victor af Klint, served as an officer in the Swedish Royal Navy, while her mother, Mathilda af Klint, was a talented pianist and vocalist. Hilma af Klint was the oldest of her three siblings, Anna, Ida, and Hermina af Klint. Her sister Hermina dies at the age of ten. The couple encouraged their children’s creative inclinations, fostering a nurturing environment for Hilma’s artistic development.

Early Influences and Education:

While growing up, Hilma af Klint showed a keen interest in the natural sciences, mathematics, and philosophy, significantly impacting her artistic vision. She received formal training at the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, where she honed her technical skills and explored various artistic styles. After graduation, Hilma af Klint taught at multiple schools in Stockholm, Sweden; she primarily taught drawing and painting classes.

Unveiling Spiritual Dimensions:

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a wave of spiritualism gripped Europe, inspiring numerous artists to explore the mystical realm. Hilma af Klint immersed herself in esoteric teachings, theosophy, and spiritual practices. Af Klint believed in higher dimensions and sought to represent these realms in her paintings. She engaged in meditation, automatic drawing, and seances to tap into her inner spiritual guidance and channel her artistic inspiration. These influences and techniques guided her unique creative expressions, creating visionary and abstract artworks that showcase her deep connection to the spiritual and metaphysical realms.

Artistic Breakthrough and Reinvention:

In 1906, af Klint, along with four other female artists, formed a group called “The Five” (De Fem in Swedish.), a circle of women artists committed to delving deeper into the spiritual aspects of art. The other members of The Five were Anna Cassel, Cornelia Cederberg, Sigrid Hedman, and Mathilda Nilsson. Together, they explored spiritualism, theosophy, and various esoteric beliefs. They held seances, conducted experiments, and documented their experiences as they attempted to connect with the spiritual world.

While The Five collaborated and shared ideas, each member had their unique artistic style and approach. Hilma af Klint stood out for her distinctive visual language, incorporating geometric shapes, symbols, and vibrant colors to convey spiritual concepts and metaphysical realms.

Unfortunately, the group disintegrated when, in 1907, Hilma claimed to have received a message from the High Masters that she should be appointed leader of the group. Disagreement led to the dissolution of the five in early 1908. 

The group’s work was largely unnoticed during their lifetimes, as it deviated from the prevailing artistic trends of the time. Their groundbreaking contributions to abstract art weren’t until decades after their deaths. These compositions are defined by their use of vibrant colors, symbolic elements, forms, and intricate geometrical patterns, pushing the boundaries of artistic expression while paving the way for future abstract artists.

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Hilma af Klint Swan Serie 1914-15;’ The Swan, 1914-15. Viewed in sequence, the series has a distinct visual rhythm. Often, a horizontal line breaks the canvases into two sections where opposite forces meet – light and dark, male and female, life and death. These poles unfold as a black and white swan. Eventually, figuration gives way to abstraction in a fuller spectrum of color. In the final work in the series, the swan pair returns, unified at the center, intertwined yet distinct and balanced as male and female poles (text: Moderna Museet).

Recognition and Awards:

Between 1888 -1908, Hilma af Klint participated regularly in group exhibitions and travels to Germany, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and Italy. From 1886 to 1914, Hilma showed conventional paintings in more than two dozen exhibitions, most of which were organized by the Swedish Association for Art (Sveriges Allmanna Konstforening); in 1888, she was awarded a prize at the Academy for her painting Human Model an oil painting of Andromeda at the Sea.

Despite being ahead of her time, Hilma af Klint’s innovative works began gaining recognition posthumously. The art movement of the early 20th century was headed by artists like Pablo Picasso, Henry Matisse, Salvator Dali, Georgia O’Keeffe, and many more.

Hilma af Klint a Head of her Time.

Exhibitions across Europe and the United States finally showed her extraordinary talent. Numerous awards and accolades followed. Some museums that hold her work include the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and the Tate Modern in London. Her artwork has been showcased and celebrated in exhibitions and retrospectives worldwide, garnering critical acclaim and public attention. Notable shows featuring her work include “Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen” at the Guggenheim Museum in 2018 and “Hilma af Klint: A Pioneer of Abstraction” at the Moderna Museet in 2013., solidifying her place as a visionary artist and inspiring subsequent generations of creators.

Some of her renowned works.

THE TEN LARGEST, 1907

The monumental images of the suite were painted in egg tempera on paper mounted on linen. The medium demands planning and fast execution since the paint dries quickly. Hilma af Klint notes that her fellow The Five member Cornelia Cederberg and another friend, Gusten Andersson, helped her. By all accounts, the sheets of paper were lying on the bare floor when the paintings were made, and each image took four days to produce.

The paintings depict the four phases in human life: Childhood, Youth, Adulthood, and Old Age. The relationship between the male and the female principles is central to all four of the ages. In her notebooks, Hilma af Klint often returned to the teachings of the spirit beings, the High Masters, regarding the so-called Dual. A simple explanation of Dual is that humans are divided beings constantly looking for their other half. This cannot be understood romantically as a search for “the one.” Instead, it’s about complementary principles and qualities necessary for man to become whole.

Hilma Af Klint’s Art to New York: A VR Experience:

In a groundbreaking move, the Guggenheim Museum in New York City introduced a virtual reality (VR) experience showcasing Hilma af Klint’s mesmerizing artworks. This technological marvel enables visitors to immerse themselves in her visionary world, exploring the intricacies and spiritual dimensions of her oeuvre like never before. The VR experience offers an unprecedented opportunity to engage with af Klint’s artistry and appreciate the profound impact of her contributions to the art world.

Hilma af Klint Group I, Primordial Chaos 1906–07 by Hilma af Klint The Guggenheim Museums and Foundation
Hilma af Klint Group I, Primordial Chaos 1906–07 by Hilma af Klint The Guggenheim Museums and Foundation

Conclusion:

Several years before, Vasily KandinskyKazimir MalevichPiet Mondrian, and others. Hilma af Klint’s visionary art career is a testament to the power of innovation and spiritual exploration. Her ability to bridge the gap between the earthly and ethereal realms through her paintings has forever changed the course of abstract art. As her artworks find new life through immersive technologies such as virtual reality, the legacy of Hilma af Klint continues to enchant and inspire both art enthusiasts and curious minds alike, transcending time and space.

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