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Hilma af Klint: Painter and Revolutionary Mystic

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Alex Gushurst-Moore.


The Swedish painter Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) was forty-four years old when she broke with the academic tradition in which she had been trained to produce a body of radical, abstract works the likes of which had never been seen before. Today, it is widely accepted that af Klint was one of the earliest abstract academic painters in Europe.

But this is only part of her story. Not only was she a working female artist, she was also an avowed clairvoyant and mystic, thrilled by the newest developments in science, deeply concerned about social change and reforms, in exchange with spiritual forces, a passionate lover and futurist thinker. Af Klint even came to England once: In 1928 she traveled to London to exhibit her paintings at the “World Conference on Spiritual Science”, organized by the English branch of the Anthroposophical Society.

Well before Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevich declared themselves the inventors of abstraction, af Klint was working in a nonrepresentational mode, producing a powerful visual language that continues to speak to audiences today. The exhibition of her work in 2018 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York attracted more than 600 000 visitors, making it the most-attended show in the history of the institution.

The lecture will lead through Hilma af Klint’s life and work – questions and commentaries from the audience are more than welcome!


Julia Voss is a German art historian, art critic, curator, and the author of “Hilma af Klint. A Biography”, just published by Chicago University Press. Inspired by her first encounter with the artist’s work in 2008, Voss set out to learn Swedish and research af Klint’s life – not only who the artist was but what drove and inspired her. The biography was a bestseller in Germany and on the shortlist of the prestigious Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair in 2020.

Until 2017 Voss was the art editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In 2015 she was appointed honorary professor at Leuphana University, Lüneburg. For her PhD in art history and history of science she traveled regularly to Cambridge in order to study the Darwin papers and library. Her book “Darwin’s Pictures. Views of Evolutionary Theory, 1837-1874” was published by Yale University Press in 2010.


This talk is part of the Cambridge Visual Culture series.

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