The film explores Hilma af Klint’s enigmatic life, now recognized as one of the Western world’s first abstract artists. It is a well-played portrait of a woman today regarded as an icon in the art world.

About Hilma af Klint

Hilma af Klint (26 October 1862 – 21 October 1944) was a Swedish artist and mystic whose paintings are considered among the first abstract works known in Western art history. A considerable body of her work predates the first purely abstract compositions by Kandinsky, Malevich, and Mondrian. She belonged to a group called “The Five,” comprising a circle of women inspired by Theosophy, who believed in the importance of trying to contact the so-called “High Masters”—often by way of séances. Her paintings, which sometimes resemble diagrams, visually represented complex spiritual ideas.

In 1880, her younger sister Hermina died, and at this time, the spiritual dimension of her life began to develop. Her interest in abstraction and symbolism came from Hilma af Klint’s involvement in spiritism, very much in vogue at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Her experiments in spiritual investigation started in 1879. She became interested in the Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky and the philosophy of Christian Rosencreutz. In 1908, she met Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Anthroposophical Society, who was visiting Stockholm. Steiner introduced her to his own theories regarding the arts, and would have some influence on her paintings later in life. Several years later, in 1920, she met him again at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, the headquarters of the Anthroposophical Society. Between 1921 and 1930 she spent long periods at the Goetheanum.

Af Klint’s work can be understood in the broader context of the modernist search for new forms in artistic, spiritual, political, and scientific systems at the beginning of the twentieth century. There was a similar interest in spirituality by other artists during this same period, including Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Kasimir Malevich, Fidus, and the French Nabis, in which many, like af Klint, were inspired by the Theosophical Movement.

The works of Hilma af Klint are mainly spiritual, and her artistic work is a consequence of this. She 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.

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