As students of art history have been taught for generations, the first (truly) abstract art was created by Wassily Kandinsky in 1911. The European painter was generally accepted as being the movement’s first pioneer. Whilst there’s an argument that the form has its roots further back in history, the Russian was almost adamant about his claim. Little did he know that there was someone who had already accomplished this feat working in a studio in Stockholm.
In 1906, Hilma af Klint created her first abstract piece. The Swedish artist benefited from the country’s more liberal laws which allowed women to study art. After graduation, she worked within a number of disciplines before her making her major breakthrough. Along with a group of fellow female artists (‘The Five’), she was a strong believer in Theosophy and spiritualism; regularly participating in spiritistic séances. Her story is told by Halina Dyrschka in Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint.
If the name Hilma af Klint is not familiar to you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Like many women throughout history, she was lost in the shuffle; with her male counterparts (Kandinsky, Malevich, Mondrian et al.) taking the limelight. It was not until the late 20th century that her legacy began to be rediscovered; culminating with a popular retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2018/19. Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint does a great job of telling her story, highlighting the art and ensuring she takes her rightful place in history.
Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint is in cinemas from 9 October.