Updated: Nov 21
The Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (26 October 1862 – 21 October 1944) is considered to be one of the abstract art forerunners. The abstract paintings Hilma created during the early 20th century are among the first abstract works known in Western art history.
The Swedish Artist's interest in abstraction and symbolism was a reflection of her involvement in spiritism, very much in vogue at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century.
A considerable body of Hilma's abstract work predates the first purely abstract compositions by Kandinsky, Malevich, and Mondrian.
Hilma Af Klimt was admitted to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts at the age of twenty. During the years 1882–1887, she studied mainly drawing, portrait painting, and landscape painting.
Hilma graduated with honors and was allocated a scholarship in the form of a studio in the so-called "Atelier Building" owned by The Academy of Fine Arts.
Hilma's Grief To The Loss Of Her Sister
Grief is the natural emotional response to the loss of someone close, Grief often involves intense sadness, and sometimes feelings of shock, numbness, or even denial and anger.
In 1880 Hilma's younger sister Hermina died, and it was at this time that Hilma's spiritual dimension began to develop.
With the death of her sister, Hilma became interested in the Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky and the philosophy of Christian Rosencreutz.
Hilma belonged to a group called "The Five", comprising a circle of women inspired by Theosophy, who shared a belief in the importance of trying to contact the so-called "High Masters" often by way of a spiritual session.
Hilma was involved in what so called a spiritual session or a meeting at which "The Five" attempted to make contact with the dead.
Occult Abstraction by Hilma Af Klimt
At the Academy of Fine Arts, Hilma met Anna Cassel, the first member of "The Five", The other members of "The Five" (De Fem) were Cornelia Cederberg, Sigrid Hedman, and Mathilda Nilsson.
The Five began their association as members of the Edelweiss Society, which embraced a combination of the Theosophical teachings of Helena Blavatsky and spiritualism. All of The Five were interested in the paranormal and regularly organized spiritistic séances.
The Five opened each meeting with a prayer, followed by a meditation, a Christian sermon, and a review and analysis of a text from the New Testament. This would be followed by a séance.
The Five including Hilma recorded, in a book, a completely new system of mystical thought in the form of messages from higher spirits called The High Masters "Höga Mästare".
In 1906, after 20 years of Hilma's artistic career, and at the age of 44, Hilma Af Klint painted her first series of abstract paintings.
In 1908, Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner the founder of "The Anthroposophical Society" and the publisher of "The Philosophy of Freedom" gained initial recognition at the end of the nineteenth century as a literary critic met Hilma while he was visiting Stockholm.
The Austrian occultist and social reformer Steiner introduced Hilma to his own theories regarding the Arts.
Several years later, in 1920, Hilma met the esotericist Steiner again at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, the headquarters of the Anthroposophical Society.
Hilma felt the abstract work and the meaning within were so groundbreaking that the world was not ready to see it, and she wished for the work to remain unseen for 20 years after her death.
In 1970, Hilma's paintings were offered as a gift to Moderna Museet in Stockholm, but the donation was declined. Erik Af Klint then donated thousands of drawings and paintings to a foundation bearing the artist's name in the 1970s.
Thanks to the art historian Åke Fant, Hilma's art was introduced to an international audience in the 1980s when he presented her at a Nordik conference in Helsinki in 1984.
The next time you stand in front of an abstract painting, remember, that it all started as an occult message from Hilma Af Klint's Höga Mästare.