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Arts & Life
The Clarion \ February 5, 2020
Chloe's Crash Course
Hilma af Klint: Art for
the f utu re
By Chloe McGee
Arts & Life Editor
Swedish artist and visionary Hilma af Klint—
whose radical, abstract work predates the better-
known art of Kandinsky and Mondrian—has
recently become an icon of mysticism.
Bom in 1862, af Klint revealed an early talent
for the visual arts and went on to attend the city’s
Royal Academy of Fine Arts where she studied
portraiture and landscape painting. However, af
Klint was destined to stray from these traditional
Of af Klint’s work most notable work is a
collection of non-representational art titled
“Paintings for the Temple.” The series features
vivid and revolutionary compositions that
manifest af Klint’s philosophical views.
With the rise of industrialization and
scientific discovery, the 19th century was a
time of tremendous upheaval, leaving its people
desperate for stability. Therefore, religious and
philosophical movements took shape, providing
answers to many artists of the time including
Af Klint’s fascination with these newfound
concepts became the muse which inspired her
unprecedented artistic expression.
Catalyzed by the untimely death of her
sister in 1880, af Klint grew in her devotion to
spiritualism and joined a group of like-minded
female artists known as “The Five.” Together
they practiced Theosophy and regularly
participated in seances to communicate with
spirits they called the “High Masters.”
In 1906, af Klint was assigned by one of
the High Masters to create paintings for the
“Temple.” Though confused by the spirit’s
commission, af Klint began her first series of
“The pictures were painted directly through
me, without any preliminary drawings, and with
great force. I had no idea what the paintings
were supposed to depict; nevertheless, I worked
swiftly and surely, without changing a single
bmsh stroke,” af Klint wrote in her journal.
Af Klint spent the better part of nine years
painting for the Temple, which resulted in 193
canvases full of vibrancy, shapes and symbols.
Unlike her contemporaries who published
manuscripts and regularly exhibited their art, af
Klint kept her paintings largely private. In fact,
af Klint mandated that her art remain in secrecy
for at least twenty years following her death in
1944. She was convinced that the world would
not be ready until then.
Ultimately, af Klint’s public debut did
not happen until 1987 and, for nearly four
decades, was largely withheld from American
Recorded in her journals, af Klint imagined her
series installed in a white, spiral temple, though
this plan never came to fruition. However, nearly
75 years after af Klint’s death. Paintings for the
Temple was exhibited at the Guggenheim.
In June 1943, renowned architect Frank
Lloyd Wright received a letter from Hilla
Rebay, art advisor to Solomon R. Guggenheim,
Courtesy of The Hilma af Klint Foundation
Hilma af Klint in her studio. Stockholm, c. 1895.
commissioning him to design a new building
to house the Guggenheim collection. “I want
a temple of spirit, a monument,” Rebay wrote.
Similar to af Klint, Lloyd was inspired by
recurring patterns in nature, as he envisioned
a white building with a spiral staircase that,
like nautilus shell, would allow space to
flow continuously and freely. These were the
blueprints that would become a reality for both
Lloyd and af Klint’s visions in 1959 when the
Guggenheim was completed.
Finally, in 2018, the Solomon R. Guggenheim
Museum in New York City presented “Hilma
af Klint: Paintings for the Future,” af Klint’s
first major solo exhibition in the United States.
The show officially became the most-visited
exhibition in the museum’s 60-year history,
attracting over 600,000 visitors.
Courtesy of The Guggenheim
Hilma af Klint. The Ten Biggest, No. 2 1907. Oii and
tempera on paper.