Berlin – Hilma af Klint: “A Pioneer of Abstraction” at Hamburger Bahnhof Through October 6th 2013

August 2nd, 2013

Hilma af Klint, The Swan, No. 17, Group IX/SUW, The SUW/UW Series (1915), courtesy Hamburger Bahnhof

The first-ever retrospective of the pioneering Swedish abstract artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) is currently on view at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof museum. The exhibition includes 200 of Klint’s most revered abstract works, as well as several lesser-known paintings and works on paper, some of which have never been publicly displayed.

Hilma af Klint, Buddha’s Standpoint in the Earthly Life, No. 3a, (1920), courtesy Hamburger Bahnhof

Over 200 works from Klint’s career will be shown in this exhibition, drawn from her estate of over one thousand paintings, sketches and watercolors. Although in her lifetime she never showed her abstract pieces, the artist has since entered the broader Western canon as one of the pioneers of Abstraction, alongside her contemporaries Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Kasimir Malevich. Among this group of artists, the theme of spirituality was one of the most important aspects of both their conception and creation of their art, and Klint is no exception.

Hilma af Klint: A Pioneer of Abstraction (Installation View), courtesy Hamburger Bahnhof

Klint was interested particularly in theosophy and anthroposophy as trigger points for her creative process. She, along with other artists at the time, would participate in séances for inspiration and creative ideas, as well as to combine her own life, mind, and spirit with her artistic process.  Always reaching for a deeper understanding of her own existence, and of her place in her community, Klint’s pieces are intensely personal, yet not intended to show any specifically relatable topics. Her works are meant to inspire unique ideas in each viewer, depending on each individual’s worldview and perspective.

Hilma af Klint, Untitled (no date)courtesy Hamburger Bahnhof

The abstract works are geometric in form and formal in feeling. In her will, Klint stated that her works were not to be publicly shown until at least twenty years after her death in 1944, but they were not actually put on display until the mid-1980s, due to a lack of public interest. Despite the fact that she was not as well-known as other abstractionists, Klint made an enormous contribution to the movement of Abstract painting, which is only now being rediscovered and readdressed.

Hilma af Klint in her studio (1895), courtesy Hamburger Bahnhof

In addition to the abstract works, also on display will be some of Klint’s notebooks, not originally intended to be pieces in themselves, but rather intended as a place where she would prepare her ideas for new works.  Curated by Miriam Halwani, this comprehensive exhibition at Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin is a result of a collaboration between the Moderna Museet Stockholm, the Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Museo Picasso Málaga, and the Verein der Freunde der Nationalgalerie.

Hilma af Klint: A Pioneer of Abstraction (Installation View), courtesy Hamburger Bahnhof

Hilma af Klint, Altar Painting (1915), courtesy Hamburger Bahnhof

—E. Baker

Related Links:
Exhibition Page [Hamburger Bahnhof]