Hilma af Klint: A Pioneer of Abstraction
Edited by Iris Müller-Westermann. Text by David Lomas, Iris Müller-Westermann, Pascal Rousseau, Helmut Zander, et al.
Just before her death in 1944 at the age of 81, the Swedish painter and mystic Hilma af Klint stipulated that her paintings were not to be publicly exhibited for 20 years. In fact, another 40-plus years were to pass before inklings of her vast oeuvre began to reach public consciousness, with the landmark 1987 exhibition and book The Spiritual in Art. Since then, critics, artists and historians have praised her with ever-increasing awe, and today af Klint’s paintings, watercolors and sketches--numbering over 1,000 in total--have never looked so contemporary, presaging as they do the works of Beatriz Milhazes, Elizabeth Murray and Tal R., and Agnes Martin, Emma Kunz and Arthur Dove before them. For af Klint herself, as a medium for an art she was despairingly unable to comprehend, contemporaneity was irrelevant: her work--much of which was dictated by a spirit guide named Ananda--unfolded in complete ignorance of Kandinsky, Malevich or Mondrian, who likewise practised an abstraction informed by theosophy and occult philosophy. Af Klint’s abstractions preceded those of Kandinsky, who is usually credited with inventing abstract painting: as early as 1906, she was devising large-scale canvases filled with grids, circles, spirals and petal-like forms--sometimes diagrammatic, sometimes biomorphic. She was painting watercolor monochromes in 1916, and making automatic drawings long before the Surrealists. This monumental 280-page monograph, with 200 color plates, is the first full Hilma af Klint overview. A landmark publication, it not only reveals the moving lucidity of her art, but challenges the narrative of abstract art in the twentieth century.