Hilma af Klint: Painting for the Future

Yvonna Russell
3 min readOct 12, 2018
The Ten Largest, №7., Adulthood, Group IV, 1907 Tempera on paper mounted on canvas 315 x 235 cm Hilma af Klint

Abstract painter Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) was a visionary artist who knew she was ahead of her time. The Guggenheim Museum presents her first major solo show in the United States,” Hilma af Klint : Painting for the Future”. Opening today the landmark exhibition of 120 works of art graces 5 tiers of the spiraling Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda of the Guggenheim. Begun over a century ago af Klint’s radical art is contemporary in the use of bold color, symbolism, fluid movement, geometric shapes and symbols. The abstract narrative of her stunning collection denotes divine love, sacredness, duality and faith.

Tree of Knowledge, №5 (Kunskapens träd, nr 5), 1915 from The W Series (Serie W) Watercolor, gouache, graphite and metallic paint on paper Watercolor, gouache, graphite and metallic paint on paper 18 1/16 x 11 5/8 inches (45.8 x 29.5 cm) Hilma af Klint

Her formal academic art education with honors started at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts ( Kungl. Konstakademien) in Stockholm not long after the school began to admit women. Hilma established herself as a respected painter of traditional portraits and landscapes. She turned to modernism after the loss of her sister and a growing interest in philosophical studies. af Klint’s abstract inspiration was deeply rooted in her spiritualism and belief in mysticism.

Group X, №1, Altarpiece (Grupp X, nr 1, Altarbild), 1915 rom Altarpieces (Altarbilder) Oil and metal leaf on canvas 237.5 x 179.5 cm Hilma af Klint

Her desire to never break up her collection and exhibit twenty years after her passing in a spiraling temple was intuitive spiritual guidance. She acknowledged in her time the world wasn’t ready for abstract art and women artists to be taken seriously.

Group I, Primordial Chaos, №16 (Grupp 1, Urkaos, nr 16), 1906–1907 from The WU/Rose Series (Serie WU/Rosen) Oil on canvas, 53 x 37 cm Hilma af Klint

Forty -two years later her nephew Johan af Klint approached galleries who showed little interest to exhibit her artwork that had laid in storage. Her family gathered her artistic legacy of 1300 figurative paintings, 125 notebooks and sketchbooks and created The Hilma af Klint Foundation with the mission to exhibit her work worldwide and academic research. The bulk of her collection has been displayed at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Over the past three decades, af Klimt’s paintings and works on paper received the serious attention of the art world. Reshaping the art history conversation who was the first purely abstract artist, the Swedish painter predates Kandinsky, Franz Marc and Piet Mondrian.

Untitled, 1920 from On the Viewing of Flowers and Trees (Vid betraktande av blommoroch träd) Watercolor on paper 17.9 x 25 cm Hilma af Klint

Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future is supported by LLWW Foundation, the Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation, the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, the Robert Lehman Foundation, and The American-Scandinavian Foundation. Guggenheim Senior Curator and Director of Collections Tracey Bashkoff assisted by Curator Assistant David Horowitz features work from her early works through to the breakthrough years with the cooperation of the Hilma af Klint Foundation, Stockholm. Hilma af Klint painted for the future. The future is now.

Group V, The Seven-Pointed Star, №1n (Grupp V, Sjustjärnan, nr 1), 1908 from The WUS/Seven-Pointed Star Series (Serie WUS/Sjustjärnan) Tempera, gouache and graphite on paper mounted on canvas 62.5 x 76cm Hilma af Klint

The show “Hilma af Klint: Painting for the Future” runs October 12th, 2018 -February 3, 2019 at the Guggenheim Museum on 1071 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

All Art work courtesy of The Hilma af Klint Foundation, Stockholm

Photo credit : Albin Dahlström, the Moderna Museet, Stockholm



Yvonna Russell

Writer. I cover the arts, good causes and style. Will work for coffee, wine and Manolo Blahniks.