Hilma af Klint, Forgotten Pioneer


Hilma af Klint (Sweden, 1862 - 1944) is a widely unknown pioneer of abstraction in modern art. She made competent impressionistic landscape paintings for public consumption at the turn of the 20th century, like many of her contemporaries (ck.. Kandinsky, Duchamp, Picabia, .. ). But by 1906, privately and outside the influence of any "school," she was painting completely abstractly-- at least 5 years ahead of Kandinsky and Mondrian, who are credited as the "fathers" of abstraction. She and four female friends, fellow graduates of art school, met every Friday night for seances in the spirit of Theosophy, the spiritualism of Madame Blavatsky, and then the Anthroposophy of Rudolph Steiner-- which also captured the interest of both Kandinsky and Mondriam.

Compare to Kandinsky's 1911 Composition V? , which he argued much later in a letter to a ... was the first. I see figuration; I think his first was Composition VII from 1915 (?he was known to backdate paintings as were others), which brims with organic shapes. Composition VIII (1923) represents his mature and representative, more geometric style. (Malevich's seminal, radically minimalist monochromes "White on White" and "Black Square" are from 1913 and 1915 (?))

Very few people knew of her inspired work in her lifetime. Believing that the time had not yet come when people would understand and appreciate her work, she specified that they should not be shown until 20 years after her death (in 1944). But even in the mid-60s when they were opened to view, they drew little attention, despite their remarkably contemporary look.

And even now, more than 50 years later, Hilma Klint is an awkward subject for critics and art historians, because she challenges fundamentally the standard narrative about the evolution of modernism. I was irritated greatly by the way she was dismissed by a critic in one video and a curator (!) in another, who suggested that she shouldn't displace the guys "because she didn't view what she was doing as art" Bullshit!

(more to come)

#artspeakes #artnotes

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