Hilma af Klint


Her work was done in secret but now you know who she is:

If you are a regular Open Culture reader, you’ve probably seen our many posts on Hilma af Klint, the Swedish abstract painter who might have been recognized, before Wassily Kandinsky, as the first 20th century abstractionist; that is, if she had shown any of her work before her death in obscurity in 1944 (the same year that Kandinsky died, it happens). Instead, af Klint instructed that her paintings not be exhibited until twenty years after her death. Then, another 22 years went by before anyone would see her enigmatic canvases. They first went on display in a 1986 Los Angeles show called, after Kandinsky, “The Spiritual in Art.” 

Comparisons seem inevitable, but where the great Russian abstractionist theorized about art and spirit, af Klint encountered it in person, she claimed in her Theosophical accounts, in which she writes of meeting five “high masters” in a séance and receiving instructions for her new style. She was a channel, a vessel, and a medium for the spirits, as she saw it.

There will be seven volumes published that will feature her work. She is absolutely remarkable and should be celebrated for her achievements.


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