Abirpothi

India’s only daily art newspaper

Who is the true pioneer of abstract art?

When we dig into the past, we always find something that is false to the claims of the present. The founders and discoveries are claimed by someone only till the world don’t know about the other. Although Vassily Kandinsky is considered to be the founder of abstract art, the history of art remains shrouded in mystery, which sometimes becomes clearer with time. This is the case of a woman, Hilma Af Klint, a painter, who turns out to be the true pioneer of abstraction. She produced a series of abstract paintings in 1906, four years before Kandinsky\’s watercolours. Ahead of her time, this artist created hundreds of enigmatic paintings where the invisible became visible.

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It was 1935, and Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky wrote a letter to his New York gallery owner, where he claimed the authorship of his first abstract painting: a piece painted in 1911. “Without doubt, it is the first abstract painting in the world (…) it is, in other words, a historical painting”, said the letter.

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However, a woman by the name of Hilma Af Klint had already begun creating abstract compositions in Sweden in 1906, with line, colour, and geometric shapes serving as the primary subjects. Nevertheless, until an exhibition held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Painting (LACMA) in the 1980s, her life and her contribution to abstract art were obscure. She wrote in her diary that a spirit by the name of Amaliel had given her the task of producing \”Paintings for the Temple.\” Af Klint noted in her diary, \”Amaliel offered me a job, and I accepted immediately\”.

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Hilma was convinced that reality extended beyond the physical realm and that there was another realm just as true and genuine as the material one. Unlike other abstract artists, Af Klint sought to expose what was concealed and show everything that existed outside of the conventional physical universe. She used a range of geometric shapes, such as concentric circles, ellipses, and triangles, as well as letters, pastel colours, lines, spirals, and other patterns to achieve this. Letters, seashells, snakes, lilies, rose crosses, and swans were among the symbols she included throughout her artwork. She used a lot of symbols as well. For example, the letter \”U\” represented \”spirit,\” while the letter \”W\” represented \”matter.\”

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Her most notable body of work, “The Paintings for the Temple,” was created between 1906 and 1915, and comprises 193 paintings grouped within several sub-series. “The Ten Largest” paintings describing the different phases of life, from early childhood to old age, were painted in 1907, measure around 240 by 320 cm (95 by 125 inches), and are shown in their entirety at the Moderna Museet in Malmö, Sweden. Her abstract work remained largely unseen for many years and it was only thanks to art historian Åke Fant that Klint’s work was introduced to an international audience at a Nordik conference in Helsinki in 1984. Further recognition came two years later, in 1986 when Klint’s work was part of a group exhibition.

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A new biography of Hilma Af Klint written by Julia Voss, a German art historian, titled Hilma Af Klint: Paintings for the Future has been published in 2018, while a film, written and directed by the Oscar-nominated Swedish filmmaker Lasse Hallström, will be released on 19th October 2022 in the UK. As reported by The Guardian, A seven-volume study and a biography will be published this month and Tate Modern is planning an exhibition in 2023.

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