af Klint, Hilma

af Klint, Hilma, 1862–1944, Swedish painter, grad. Swedish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm (1887). She began painting mainly landscapes and portraits, but is known for her compelling abstract works, which were fostered by an interest in science, particularly x-rays and radio waves, as well as a devotion to the spiritualism and theosophy. Created as early as 1906, her abstractions predate Kandinsky's earliest abstract works, long considered the first abstractions, by some five years. Af Klint and four women who shared her spiritual interests conducted séances and in trancelike states contacted beings they called the High Ones, who called on the women to build them a temple. From 1906 to 1915 af Klint produced the 193 works that form her Paintings for the Temple. Probably the finest of these are 10-ft-high (3-m) works executed in tempera on paper glued to canvas that she called The Ten Largest (1907); they symbolize the phases of life from childhood to old age. Her abstractions mingle organic and geometric shapes with symbols, letters, and words, and are painted in a riot of colors, each of which represents a characteristic, e.g., blue for female or yellow for male. Af Klint specified that her more than 1,200 abstract paintings and drawings and the related notebooks not be seen until 20 years after her death; not until 1986 were they first exhibited. Klint discussed her work in a series of voluminous notebooks.

See Hilma af Klint: Notes and Methods, notebook selections ed. by C. Burgin (2018); studies by I. Müller-Westermann, ed. (2013), and T. Bashkoff, ed. (2018); H. Dyrschka. dir., Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint (documentary, 2019).

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