Not Yet Published
The only book to spotlight the sensational Swedish artist Hilma af Klint’s groundbreaking, gorgeous Tree of Knowledge series in its entirety
“Revelatory and sublime…Her work remains conceptually open enough for viewers to draw their own conclusions, insert their own meaning and feel transported to other glorious worlds.” —The New York Times
One of the most inventive artists of the twentieth century, Hilma af Klint was a pioneer of abstraction. Her first forays into her imaginative non-objective painting long preceded the work of Kandinsky and Mondrian and radically mined the fields of science and religion. Deeply interested in spiritualism and philosophy, af Klint developed an iconography that explores esoteric concepts in metaphysics, as demonstrated in Tree of Knowledge. This rarely seen series of watercolors renders orbital, enigmatic forms, visual allegories of unification and separateness, darkness and light, beginning and end, life and death, and spirit and matter.
Published on the occasion of the exhibition Hilma af Klint: Tree of Knowledge at David Zwirner New York in 2021 and David Zwirner London in 2022, this catalogue features a text by the art historian Susan Aberth examining af Klint’s spiritual and anthroposophical influences. With a conversation between the curator Helen Molesworth and the US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo discussing connections between Tree of Knowledge and native theories about plant knowledge, the publication broadens the scope of philosophical interpretations of af Klint's timeless work. Also included is a newly commissioned essay by the celebrated af Klint scholar Julia Voss, a contribution by the artist Suzan Frecon, and a text by art historian Max Rosenberg that further develops the conversation around why af Klint’s work was not recognized in its time.
About the Author
Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) is now regarded as a pioneer of abstract art. Though her paintings were not seen publicly until 1987, her work from the early 20th century predates the first purely abstract paintings by Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevich. Af Klint was born in Solna, outside Stockholm, and studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm from 1882 to 1888. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s 2018 survey of af Klint’s work was the first major solo exhibition in the United States devoted to the artist, offering an unprecedented opportunity to experience af Klint’s long-underrecognized artistic achievements.
Julia Voss is a curator, art critic, and professor. Her biography of Hilma af Klint was on the shortlist of the Leipzig Book Fair Prize in 2020 and became a bestseller. She headed the visual arts department of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung for ten years and has been teaching art history as an honorary professor at Leuphana University in Lüneburg since 2015. She lives in Berlin with her husband Philipp Deines and two children.
Susan Aberth is an associate professor of art history at Bard College, specializing in Latin American surrealism.
Suzan Frecon is an artist known for abstract oil paintings and works on paper. She was born in 1941 in Mexico, Pennsylvania.
Max Rosenberg is an art historian and associate director of research and exhibitions at David Zwirner. He has worked on exhibitions on Josef Albers, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, William Eggleston, Paul Klee, Giorgio Morandi, Raymond Pettibon, and Christopher Williams, among others. He has received grants and awards from the Dedalus Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Getty Research Institute, among other institutions. His writings have appeared in various publications, including The Getty Research Journal, Texte zur Kunst, and Art in America.
“Her work remains conceptually open enough for viewers to draw their own conclusions, insert their own meaning and feel transported to other glorious worlds”
— The New York Times
“revelatory and sublime”
— The New York Times
“An arboreal silhouette anchors each image, attended by spheres, pyramids, and shapes that suggest cellular structures. Delicately rendered birds and flowers recall both the decorative motifs of Art Nouveau and the filigree of illuminated manuscripts.”
— The New Yorker
“rapturous coda to the Guggenheim’s 2018 af Klint blockbuster”
— The New Yorker
“I left the show believing that af Klint was genuinely telegraphing a more sustainable, equitable future for us all: a “new period” of spiritual awareness that we all need now more than ever before.”