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Hilma Af Klint: The Woman That Discovered Abstract Art before Kandinsky

Por: Silvana Mejia14 de enero de 2023

Hilma af Klint has been cataloged as one of the pioneers of abstract art, reaching the level of Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevich.

It is not a novelty that many artists acquire fame after leaving this world. There are many examples of characters who lived in misery, walking the streets in despair, or spending hardship in some cheap hotel room, producing their work in solitude, with a budget so low that sometimes they had to choose between buying their materials or feeding themselves. But nowadays, their works cost so much that they could feed thousands of people in poverty with the money they are worth.

When we get to know the works of such great masters, is when we ask ourselves: Why were they not valued in their time? Why female artists tend to be in this category? There are many reasons, but we cannot deny that the revelation of these artists and their works have caused great changes in the History of Art. A very clear example is the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, who has been cataloged as one of the pioneers of abstract art, reaching the level of Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevich.

Hilma af Klint was born in 1862 and was part of the cradle of a wealthy family who spent their summers in a house on the island of Adelsö, which is why she began to take taste and interest in nature. She enjoyed capturing what she saw on her canvases. It was this type of artistic expression that would give her certain recognition in the artistic field during her youth and maturity, after graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where she met Anna Cassel, who would be her friend and companion for many years.

Hilma’s work has to do with something more than a conscious revolution in art; what is embodied in her work is spirituality, the deepest part of the being. In Hilma af Klint’s paintings, there is an anticipation of the most important artistic movements, such as surrealism, not because it is inspired by the dream world, but by what the eye cannot see but exists.

One of the factors that would trigger her restlessness in the spiritual world and the transcendence of the soul was the passing of her 10-year-old sister in 1880. After this, she began to read Madame Blavatsky, and soon joined the Stockholm Theosophical Society.

Hilma, Anna, and three other girls from the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts formed the group “The Five,” women believers in esoteric practices who captured in paint what was dictated to them by “higher beings,” with whom they communicated when they went into a trance through rituals. Every Friday, they met, and the spiritual entities accompanied them to guide their hands. Colors, geometric shapes, and spirals are some of the elements of the language that Klint used to expose that world that exists in the deepest part of the being.

It was in 1986 when the Los Angeles Museum of Art received Hilma’s works thanks to her nephew, Erik af Klint. The artist had stipulated in her will that the series could only be exhibited two decades after her passing; it happened four decades after.

In more than a thousand paintings and 125 workbooks, Klint captured that spirituality that is so difficult to detect but so fascinating to know. There is no doubt that the Swedish artist knew that her work was ahead of her time and that she needed time to pass for humanity to mature and appreciate her works, which today are an outstanding part of Art History.

Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

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