‘They called her a crazy witch’: did medium Hilma af Klint invent abstract art?

‘They called her a crazy witch’: did medium Hilma af Klint invent abstract art?

October 7, 2020

Years before Kandinsky, the Swedish artist was painting circles, sunbursts and looping lines – instructed, she believed, by spirits. Now, over 75 years since her death, she is being recognised as a pioneer

In 1971, the art critic Linda Nochlin wrote an essay called Why have there been no great women artists? The question may be based on a false premise: there have been, we just didn’t get to see their work.

The visionary Swedish artist Hilma af Klint exemplifies this clearly, argues Halina Dyrschka, the German film-maker, whose beautiful film Beyond the Visible, about the painter’s astonishing work, is released on Friday. When I ask her why af Klint has been largely ignored since her death in 1944, Dyrschka tells me over video link from Berlin: “It’s easier to make a woman into a crazy witch than change art history to accommodate her. We still see a woman who is spiritual as a witch, while we celebrate spiritual male artists as geniuses.”

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