Hilma af Klint – A Pioneer of Abstraction exhibition was presented by the Moderna Museet in 2013. Curated by Iris Müller-Westermann and featuring a total of 230 works, it was the most extensive exhibition of the artist’s work at that time.
Moderna Museet, Stockholm February 16th to May 26th 2013
Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) was a pioneer of art that turned away from visible reality. By 1906, she had developed an abstract imagery. This was several years before Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), Piet Mondrian (1872–1944) and Kazimir Malevich (1878–1935), who are still regarded as the pioneers of abstract 20th-century art.
Hilma af Klint assumed that there was a spiritual dimension to life and aimed at visualizing contexts beyond what the eye can see. When painting, she believed that she was in contact with a higher consciousness that spoke and conveyed messages through her. Like many of her contemporaries, she was influenced by spiritual movements, especially spiritualism, theosophy and later anthroposophy. Through her paintings, she sought to understand and communicate the various dimensions of human existence.
In the late 1870s, Hilma af Klint attended séances, where a medium contacted the dead. There was a great fascination for invisible phenomena at the time. This can be seen in relation to scientific discoveries, such as x–rays that could reveal internal human organs, and electromagnetic waves that led to the development of radio.
In 1896, Hilma af Klint and four other women formed the group “De Fem” [The Five]. They made contact with “high masters” from another dimension, and made meticulous notes on their séances. This led to a definite change in Hilma af Klint’s art. She began practising automatic writing, which involves writing without consciously guiding the movement of the pen on the paper. She developed a form of automatic drawing, predating the surrealists by decades. Gradually, she eschewed her naturalist imagery, in an effort to free herself from her academic training. She embarked on an inward journey, into a world that is hidden from most people.
In her will, Hilma af Klint wrote that her abstract works must not be made accessible to the public until at least twenty years after her death. She was convinced that their full meaning could not be understood until then. One hundred years ago, Hilma af Klint painted pictures for the future.
Hilma af Klint – A Pioneer of Abstraction exhibition continued to tour in several countries from 2013-2015 after first showing at the Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm. Other venues were Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, Norway; KUMU Art Museum, Tallinn, Estonia; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, Denmark; Helsingfors Konsthall, Sweden; Museo Picasso, Malaga, Spain and Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany. A selection of these works were brought to London for the exhibition Hilma af Klint – Painting the Unseen at the Serpentine Galleries in 2016.
A comprehensive catalogue accompanied this retrospective exhibition was published by Hatje Cantz and edited by Iris Müller-Westermann with Jo Widoff. Contributions were by David Lomas, Iris Müller-Westermann, Pascal Rousseau and Helmut Zander.