Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen

Serpentine Gallery

3 Mar 2016 to 15 May 2016

Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen

Serpentine Galleries presented an exhibition of Swedish painter Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), who is now regarded as a pioneer of abstract art. While her paintings were not seen publicly until 1986, her work from the early 20th century pre-dates the first purely abstract paintings by Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich.

Read more

"The show of the year" - The Sunday Times

This Serpentine exhibition focused primarily on af Klint's body of work, The Paintings for the Temple, which dates from 1906–15. The sequential nature of her work was highlighted by the inclusion in the exhibition of numerous paintings from key series, some never-before exhibited in the UK.

After graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm in 1887, af Klint took a studio in the city where she produced and exhibited traditional landscapes, botanical drawings and portraits. However, by 1886 she had abandoned the conventions she learned at the Academy in favour of painting the invisible worlds hidden within nature, the spiritual realm and the occult. She privately joined four other female artists to form a group called ‘The Five’. They conducted séances to encounter what they believed to be spirits who wished to communicate via pictures, leading to experiments with automatic writing and drawing, which pre-dated the Surrealists by several decades.

In 1905, af Klint received a ‘commission’ from an entity, which the group named Amaliel, to create her most important body of work, The Paintings for the Temple. Consisting of 193 predominately abstract paintings in various series and subgroups, the artist painted a path towards a harmony between the spiritual and material worlds; good and evil; man and woman; religion and science. This major work charted the influence of science and religion on af Klint’s works, from the discovery of electromagnetic waves to the spiritual teachings of anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner. Steiner was af Klint’s mentor and his presence in her life resulted in the cycle becoming more orderly with depictions of symbols and motifs, such as shells, snakes, lilies and crosses, from his spiritual movement.

Hilma af Klint painted in near isolation from the European avant-garde. Fearing that she would not be understood, she stipulated that her abstract work should be kept out of the public eye for 20 years after her death. While the works were not exhibited for a further 20 years, it subsequently came to be understood alongside the broader context of modernism at the turn of the 20th century.

The exhibition was co-curated by the Serpentine Galleries in collaboration with Daniel Birnbaum, Director of Moderna Museet, Stockholm. 

Close

Related Events / Exhibitions

Exhibition

DAS INSTITUT

3 Mar 2016 to 15 May 2016

The Serpentine presented the first major exhibition of work by Kerstin Brätsch and Adele Röder in a UK public institution. Brätsch and Röder are based in New York and London. While each has her own practice, the artists have worked collaboratively as DAS INSTITUT since 2007.

View Exhibition

Sound

Serpentine Online

Invocations for Hilma af Klint on Serpentine Radio, with Leah Clements, Clodagh Emoe, Daria Martin and Zadie Xa

12 Apr 2016 - 10:00 AM to 15 May 2016 - 6:00 PM

On the occasion of the exhibition, Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen, artists have been invited to produce sound pieces for Serpentine Radio responding to the idea of an ‘invocation’ through the prism of their own practice. Contributions include conversations, inductions, meditations, music and other works. Participants include Leah Clements, Clodagh Emoe, Daria Martin, Zadie Xa and more

View Event

Shop

Painting the Unseen

Publication

£16.50

Back to Top

Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen Film

Thursday, 31st March 2016
Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View  2

Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View 2

Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation view Serpentine Gallery, London (3 March – 15 May 2016)
Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View  3

Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View 3

Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation view Serpentine Gallery, London (3 March – 15 May 2016)
Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View  4

Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View 4

Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation view Serpentine Gallery, London (3 March – 15 May 2016)
Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View  6

Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View 6

Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation view Serpentine Gallery, London (3 March – 15 May 2016)
Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View  5

Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View 5

Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation view Serpentine Gallery, London (3 March – 15 May 2016)
Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View  7

Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View 7

Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation view Serpentine Gallery, London (3 March – 15 May 2016)
Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View  8

Hilma Af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation View 8

Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen Installation view Serpentine Gallery, London (3 March – 15 May 2016)

Hilma af Klint, Group IX/SUW, No. 17. The Swan, No. 17

Hilma af Klint

Group IX/SUW, No. 17. The Swan, No. 17, 1914-5

Oil on canvas, 150.5 x 151 cm

Courtesy of Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk. Photo: Moderna Museet / Stockholm

Hilma af Klint, Group IV, No. 3. The Ten Largest, Youth

Hilma af Klint

Group IV, No. 3. The Ten Largest, Youth, 1907

Tempera on paper mounted on canvas, 321 x 240 cm

Courtesy of Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk. Photo: Moderna Museet / Stockholm