Hilma af Klint

By Loa Schriefer

Hilma af Klint was a Swedish artist born in 1862. She started off as a landscape painter, the best in her art school. Later after mastering landscape painting she moved onto more abstract and spiritual based work. She painted symbols and geometric forms that she was drawn to. During this time no artist had really started or thought of abstract painting. Her art was influenced by the discoveries in science and her culture at the time. She used religion to guide her work, by exploring the different areas and types. Hilma joined a group of women together to have séances, they called themselves “The Five.” She believed that a spirit visited her, and that spirit is what inspired her to start her life’s work, a group of 193 paintings aimed to show the spirit of the world to mankind. Hilma was amongst the first to incorporate words into her paintings. She painted hundreds of painting and drew thousands of sketches, that were not discovered until after she had died, because she wanted to keep them private. Hilma had specifically asked that her work not be shown until at least 20 years after her death, because she said that the world was not ready for her work. The fathers of abstract art were not really the founders of abstraction, Hilma was, but because she wasn’t discovered till much later, she does not get the credit. Hilma af Klint’s paintings and sketches are being displayed at the Guggenheim museum in New York. The Guggenheim show is set up so that as you can walk through and see how her art evolved. If you happen to be in New York, I strongly suggest that you go.

Here is a short timeline of how Hilma’s work evolved.

This is a picture of the layout at the Guggenheim.

This landscape is one of her earliest works before she discovered abstraction.


These are a good example of some of the symbols she used in her work.


Here are some of her sketches that show how her work evolved.

These are her biggest and most famous works.