Monday, October 22, 2018

HILMA af KLINT: Paintings for the Future at The Guggenheim: Review By Polly Guerin

The long under-recognized innovator of the bold and colorful abstract paintings of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) fill the ramps of the Guggenheim's rotunda. Conjuring up images of striking originality, the exhibition,
HILMA af KLINT: Paintings for the Future, offers an unprecedented opportunity to view Klint's groundbreaking achievements through her first major solo exhibition in the United States. On view through April 23, 2079.
        Af Klint was an innovator, a woman ahead of her rime. When Klint began creating her radically abstract paintings in 1906, they were like little that had been seen before: bold, colorful, extravagant expressions of modernism several years before Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, and others began to embrace modernism in the way that Klint achieved.
        Image: Group IV, The Ten Largest , No 7, Adulthood, 1907 Tempura on paper, Mounted on canvas 124 x 92 1/2 inches. Stiftelsen Hilma af Klint's Verk, Photo: Albin Dahlstrom/Moderna Museet.
      Yet, her obscurity in all fairness lies in her own decision.  Convinced that the world was not ready for her paintings, she stipulated that they not be shown for 20 years after her death.  
     The exhibition features more than 170 of af Klint's artworks and focuses on the artist's break-through years 1906-20. It is during this period that she began to produce nonobjective and stunningly imaginative paintings, creating a singular body of work that invites a reevaluation of modernism and its development. Spiritual sparks helped to also inspire her radical and visionary art.     
Hilma Af Klint
You need only to look at a photo of Hilma to see how extraordinary a woman she was for her time. Imagine a woman in long skirts and high collar of the early 20th century standing in front of a painting she created. It is a massive piece---about 10 feet by 8 feet wide---and it is not a landscape, a portrait, a still life, nor a scene. Dominating the composition is a bold yellow form, reminiscent of a plant or sea creature. It is just one of af Klint's vast oeuvre of her radically abstract paintings that she has made in the few short years between 1906-1920.

      Af KLINT studied painting at Stockholm's Royal Academy of Fine Arts, graduating with honors in 1887.  During her formative years as an established painter she she also became deeply engaged with spiritualism, Rosicrucianism and Theosophy. Af Klint developed her new approach to art making together with her spiritual practice, outside of Stockholm's male-dominated art world. She had begun to regularly hold seances with four other women by1896. During a meeting in 1906, one of the spirits that group often channeled asked af Klint to create a cycle of paintings. As legend recounts; af Klint immediately accepted. She worked on the project between 1906 and 1915, completing 193 paintings and works on paper collectively called, The Paintings for the Temple. Stylistically they are strikingly diverse, utilizing biomorphic and geometric forms, expansive and intimate scales with innovative composition and color.     

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue representing af Klint's painting series  and presents the fullest picture of her life. The volume also delves into her unrealized plans for a spiral-shaped temple in which to display her art. The hardcover edition is available for $65 at

       PUBLIC OROGRAMS: Program additions, information, schedules and ticket info are available at  MUSIC for the TEMPLE, A Tribute to Hilma af Klint by John Zorn takes place Thursday and Friday November 28 and 30 at 7 pm.  Following the performance audience members are invited to attend a private, after hours viewing ot the exhibition. For ticket price and information about gallery tours contact the guggenheim calendar website.
       Image: Group X, No 1 Altarpiece, 1915 (Altarbilder). Oil and metal leaf on canvas . 235.5 x 179.5 cm. The Hilma af Klint Foundation, Stockholm, Sweden. Photo: Albin Dahlstrom, the Moderna Museet, Stokholm.
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  These monumental images created by Hilma af Klint draw us inward and outward to an imaginary world of modernism. Let's salute Hilma, a woman ahead of time.  Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the links in the left-hand column to fashion, women determined to succeed and visionary men.


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