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Looking closely at Hilma, with the help of art historian Julia Voss

Fortunately, in recent years, pioneering abstract artist Hilma af Klint has been rightfully critically positioned as the mother of abstract art. Art historian Julia Voss, author of the impeccable, essential Hilma af Klint: A Biography (The University of Chicago Press, 2022) spoke with us about the artist. 

"Hilma af Klint's work is a building with many entrances", she explains. "Everything about her interests me. Her art, her life, her attitude, her way of dealing with resistance. It was her paintings that started things off. They are an irresistible bait and I got hooked. The Ten Largest always make me cry when I see them." —Julia Voss

They make us cry too, Julia. 

We are so proud of the Hilma editions that we offer here at 20x200, all of which happen to be absolutely mesmerizing when housed in our hand-built custom frames, especially the larger sizes. These graceful, mystical works of art by a pioneering female artist would also make for very powerful gifts for a matriarchs in your lives. And it just so happens that our 25% off LEVELUP promo runs through Monday, so there’s no better time than now to frame one up and make a splash for Mother’s Day!

Created in 1910, The Dove, No. 1 follows af Klint's signature study of dualities. The dove—which represents peace and is often associated with Christianity and the Holy Spirit—is bisected by the vertical helix, a nod to science and mathematics (though predating the discovery of DNA). Religion and science are harmoniously woven throughout the work from the symbolism of darkness and light to the delicate rainbow color refractions carefully executed with geometric precision.

The Swan, No. 17, Group IX/SUW is part of a group of 24 oil canvases created between 1914 and 1915 by Hilma af Klint. More geometric in style than the Ten Largest group, The Swan paintings employ symmetry and balance throughout the series, often displaying a single form repeated or mirrored in abstract ways across the canvas.

No. 17’s central circle suggests a duality that appears in much of af Klint’s work: light vs. dark, whole vs. part, grayscale vs. bright colors. While at first glance the composition of No. 17 appears to depart from some of af Klint’s other more biomorphic, organic style pieces, common underlying themes of spiritualism, symbolism, and color coding are woven throughout her entire body of work.

It’s undeniable that af Klint was positively scientific in her pursuit of the ethereal, in her spiritually-driven desire to transcend the tangible. But at the root of all the methodical obsessing and brilliant art-making is an irrepressible, infectious lust for learning. One of the reasons we find ourselves so absorbed in Seven-Pointed Star No. 1 and af Klint’s larger body of work is the way it involves us in the process of discovery, the joy of mystery, her genuine engagement and interest in learning life’s secrets. When the weight of the world feels crushing and confusing, a little of af Klint’s attitude goes a long way.

The FINE PRINT (not to be confused with our fine prints)  

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