She demanded that her art would not be shown to the world until 20 years after her death, saying people weren’t “ready to understand it”. Now, 69 years later, Wall Street Journal says Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) from Sweden may be the originator of abstract art.
According to art historian Julia Voss, Klint’s current show at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet undermines claims that Kandinsky, Francis Picabia, Kazimir Malevich and others were pioneers in abstract painting. A painting called “De Tio Största, no 10 Ålderdomen” (“The Ten Largest, No. 10 Old Age”) features circular lines and rectangular shapes filled with different colors on a rose background. It’s gigantic: 328 centimeters high and 240 centimeters wide (10.7X7.8 feet).
It’s a typical abstract work. Or is it? The year it was made is 1907 – abstract art had not yet been invented. Meanwhile, there’s a huge exhibition at MoMA in New York titled “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925”, but af Klint isn’t even mentioned in it. Curator of this exhibition, Leah Dickerman, tells the Wall Street Journal why: “[Af Klint] painted in isolation and did not exhibit her works, nor did she participate in public discussions of that time. I find what she did absolutely fascinating, but am not even sure she saw her paintings as art works.” Hilma af Klint was not only a painter, she was also a mystic who belonged to a group called “The Five”, and her paintings or diagrams were visual representations of complex philosophical ideas.
The exhibition at the Moderna Museet Stockholm runs until May 26. The exhibition at MoMA New York "Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925" runs until April 15
The WSJ article, headlined "Did a Mystic Swede Invent Abstract Painting?" ran under Arts & Entertainment in the newspaper on Feb. 28