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Hilma af Klint. A Pioneer of Abstraction

Hilma af Klint. A Pioneer of Abstraction

Time: 13.03.15–07.06.15  09:00–15:00
Location: Kumu näitusesaalid

The Great Hall

This exhibition brings to the audience the oeuvre of one of the most innovative artists of the early 20th century. Although Hilma af Klint’s (1862–1944) works were completed in the first decades of the 20th century, they still manage to appear surprisingly radical, abstract, large-scale and mysterious, with an unusual colour palette for their time. The artist dedicated herself to art that shed light on the spiritual dimension, which she viewed as a task of utmost importance. Hilma af Klint started to paint large-scale abstract works well before such recognised pioneers of abstract art as Vassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian and Frantishek Kupka. Hilma af Klint’s abstraction not only dealt with colour and form, but also attempted to give shape to invisible levels. Unlike the other abstractionists, af Klint kept her work secret during her lifetime as she felt that the public was incapable of understanding her work. In her will, Hilma af Klint noted that her paintings should not be shown to the public until at least twenty years after her death.

Hilma af Klint began her art studies at the Tekniska Skolan in Stockholm, from where she moved on to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm for five years. In her scenic painted landscapes, naturalist portraits and botanical watercolours, she examined the surrounding world in detail. After some time, Hilma af Klint became more and more interested in contemporary alternative movements, especially spiritualism, theosophy and anthroposophy. She participated in séances of the spiritualist group The Five (De Fem). During the active period of the group, Hilma af Klint acted as a medium and passed on the messages that she received from the other side. The monumental result of this task was a cycle of 193 paintings entitled The Paintings for the Temple (1906–1915), which the artist considered the core of her oeuvre. The encompassing aim of the cycle, which consists of various series, was to expand the understanding of the ties between humanity and the universe, and to convey a unity that surpasses the visible, dual world. The world that Hilma af Klint depicted seems like a scientific system in which we move between the macro and micro dimensions. Numerous symbols in Hilma af Klint’s paintings serve as doors into another world and can be opened by each viewer in his or her own way.

Hilma af Klint’s radical oeuvre was on public display for the first time in 1986 at the exhibition The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890–1985 in Los Angeles. Since then the interest in af Klint’s art has continuously grown and her works have been shown at several international exhibitions. At the exhibition, compiled by the Moderna Museet of Stockholm, you can experience the creative legacy of Hilma af Klint in all its complexity. A number of the works are on display for the first time ever.

Exhibition curator: Iris Müller-Westermann, Moderna Museet, Stockholm
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Coordinator: Liis Pählapuu

Exhibition design and graphic identity by: Tuuli Aule
With the support of:
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Hilma af Klint. The Ten Largest. No. 3. Youth. Group IV. 1907. © Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk. Photo: Albin Dahlström, Moderna Museet