Hilma af Klint

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Regarded as a pioneer of abstract art, Swedish artist Hilma af Klint was quite unknown until 1986. This can be due to the fact that when she about to die, at the ripe age of 81 in 1944, she made those around her promise her that her work wouldn’t be publicly exhibited …not until for at least 20 years or so. Klint got her wish, as it took another 40 years before the world discovered her paintings. Many attribute this to her spiritual nature and that she was a very secretive, private person. Klint was also a bit of an outsider due to her eccentric nature which is why not much is known about her early life, for many art lovers she may well be Europe’s first abstract painter.

Born in 1862 to a Swedish naval commander, from an early age onwards Klint developed a strong affinity for nature. This was due to her summers spent on her family’s farmhouse in the idyllic setting of Lake Malaren in Adelso. Her sister’s death prompted Klint to develop a yearning for the spiritual world; her sibling’s death is what triggered her foray into thinking more about the unknown. In fact so deep was her connection with her spiritual side that Klint founded and became the leader of a group called The Five. The group was a circle of women who believed in the importance of staying connected to the high masters in the spiritual realm. This is why a lot of paintings of Klint hold different symbolic figures and diagrams – they are her version of being connected to her spiritual side. Despite excelling in Maths and music, Klint chose art and enrolled in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. She graduated in 1887 as a landscape, portrait and botanical painter, and trained studiously for the next 10 years almost as if she was readying herself to embark on something she wanted to be ready for. This may be one of the reasons why Klint’s work was so ground breaking and well ahead of her time, for her art wasn’t about ego but about the foresight to make something the world has not yet seen. Klint’s environment of art was full of pretension, lack of spirit and very commercial – all things Klint didn’t want her work to be. This can be linked to why she specifically asked for her work to not be shown for a few decades after her death. Deep down Klint knew the world wasn’t ready for it nor would people understand it.

Klint’s work stands out today due to its deep connection to spiritualism and the way it embodies it. By 1906 Klint was working on large scale canvases filled with circles, u shaped symbols, overlapping cones and flower shaped forms. Some parts of her work were systematic, many weren’t and by 1916 she had moved on to include waterworks in her craft as well. Klint spent most of her life as someone no one heard of – she made her mark decades after her demise. She is the epitome of ‘that artist’ who inspires legions of others and remains an important asset to the art world.

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