Hilma af Klint

In fall 2018, the Guggenheim Museum will present the first major solo exhibition in the United States of the work of pioneering artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), a long under-recognized innovator of abstract art. Af Klint had begun producing nonobjective paintings by 1906, significantly before Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, and others widely considered trailblazers of the movement to free artwork of representational content. The bold color palettes and expansive formats af Klint frequently used were also like little else that had been seen before. Despite her prescience, af Klint was not well known during her lifetime or the decades following her death. Though she showed her portraits and landscapes, which were rendered in a deft academic style, she produced her more groundbreaking works as part of her spiritual practice. She hoped to install many of them in a spiral-shaped temple, but the building never came to fruition, and the works remained largely unseen. In her turn to abstraction, af Klint engaged many of the same cultural currents that came to inform the work of her better-known peers, including theosophy and anthroposophy, spiritualism, and major scientific discoveries of the period, such as evolution and atomic theory. When af Klint died in 1944, she stipulated that her work not be shown for another 20 years; she believed the world was not yet ready to understand her radically forward-looking compositions. Only over the past three decades have her paintings and works on paper begun to gain widespread attention.