“There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
Virginia Woolf  1882 – 1941

Hilma in her studio

Hilma af Klint, born in Stockholm in 1862 was an individual who demanded the freedom of her own mind. While it was still mostly unfashionable for women to be trained in the arts, she studied at the city’s Royal Academy, graduating with honors in 1887. She soon established herself as a respected painter, realizing the power of her spirit and the elegant expression of her own hand. She had a natural talent for realism, deftly rendering figurative paintings. But her heart wanted free reign with authentic originality, and in 1906 at the age of 44, she turned to colorful raw expression. From that point forward, the ground shifted and her life was never the same.

Group V The Evolution – 1908

A member of the Association of Swedish Women Artists, af Klint enjoyed camaraderie with like-minds. But the art world has a long history of male dominance, which caused Hilma to struggle to secure exhibition space. In fact, records show that she may have displayed some of her striking abstract works only once during her lifetime. Despite the challenges, she persisted, creating major stylistic advances ahead of her male peers, Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimer Malevich and Piet Mondrian, well-known abstract expressionists at the time. They created their groundbreaking style, rejecting “reality” literally years AFTER af Klint had already quietly invented such radical new forms.

The Ten Largest #1 Childhood – 1907

Af Klint produced ten massive pieces that were artistically and spiritually significant between October and December in 1907, calling them The Ten Largest. They “focused on the stages of life and humanity’s connections to the universe.” She was truly channeling spiritual energy into forms that had never been seen before. Hers is a magnificent story full of light, power and mysterious messages. She belonged to a group with four other women who used psychic abilities to create innovative paintings. In one of their meetings she was inspired to create The Ten Largest, to be displayed following a spiral path in a “Temple.” Coincidentally, 75 years after her death, The Ten were shown in a major exhibition at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York City—famous for its unique art display surface on a descending “spiral path,” as mysteriously foretold.

Guggenheim exhibit – 2019

Sadly, her work was destined to be misunderstood and cast aside by the power structure of the time. However, she never wavered from her mission, having ultimate faith in her art. It was then, in that moment of dogged determination that she made an important decision that would literally change the world of art. She of course, decided to continue her life’s work undaunted, BUT, refused to sell any of her art. She intentionally devised a plan to deprive the male dominated art-collecting-world any profit from her work. Upon her death in 1944, her estate was sealed at her bequest. She stipulated that her work could not be seen until 20 years after her death, and absolutely never sold. 

Eros Series #2 – 1907

Her incredible plan was successful and the majority of her work remained largely unseen until 1986—locked away in a storage room miraculously withstanding wide temperature and humidity fluctuations for decades. She was certain there would come a time when people would be able to appreciate what she had created and the story she was destined to tell. Hilma was right. Seventy years after her death, more than 1200 pieces were uncrated to reveal a treasure trove of unimaginable significance—finally receiving the much deserved serious attention that she longed for throughout her life. After so many years of being hidden from public view, the magic and mystery of her life’s work has finally come to light!

Hilma af Klint

The amazing abstract body of work by Hilma af Klint has emerged from the musty crates in the cellar vault, confirming that she clearly predated any early abstract paintings by Kandinsky, the “Father” of abstract art. One big question remains: Will we have the courage to rewrite the story of art to place Hilma af Klint at the center as the true creator of abstract art? After all, she was the “Mother” who invented the movement!

“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”
Michelle Obama

The work of Hilma af Klint can be seen: in the extraordinary documentary of her life called “Beyond the Visible“; in the video covering her past exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York; and in the book called Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future by Tracey Bashkoff. In addition, you can visit the Hilma af Klint Foundation for additional and ongoing information about her life and work.

The featured image at the top of this post is called “Group VI The Evolution #9 – 1908. All photographs of Hilma af Klint works shown here were originally from either the Guggenheim.org exhibition or artblart.com—thank you for your generosity.

The Ten Largest #3 Youth

We needed a replacement grill. The one we bought years ago rusted through, dropping fire out the bottom faster than we could sear our chicken breasts. That’s a dangerous scenario during the dry days of August. The trendy Big Green Egg is touted as the ultimate grilling experience, but they just don’t exist here. Perhaps something simple, like our classic Weber. But wait! Wouldn’t it be nice to replace our charcoal model with a spiffy propane powered grill? Regardless of the options, we decided that “buying local” was the thing to do. So, we went hunting. (more…)

So here’s the situation: In our Italian neck of the woods, there is a law that permits only a certain number of windows per room. Yes, that’s right. Apparently, the practice started years ago when farmers didn’t want so many windows due to their inefficiency—you know, drafty winters, vulnerability, etc. So, over the centuries, they just made the practice into an architectural common law of sorts. Why not? You can do that kind of thing here  . . . it’s Italy! (more…)

Imagine a hiking trail 100 miles long with no particular destination. Sound strange? What if you could actually see the focus of your wanderings, yet never arrive there? What if the trail encircled the most magnificent symbol of the Italian Renaissance—the Duomo, Cattedrale Santa Maria del Fiore—the main cathedral in the heart of Florence? Now, this is really getting interesting. Well, there is such a trail—where the real destination is a deepening of the magic and mystery of that special place known as Firenze—the heart of Tuscany—an experience like no other! (more…)

A few months ago, we came across a program called “Workaway.” It’s an online organization that allows people who need help to find those people who want to help. Or conversely, people who want to help, can find someone with an engaging project. The idea is simple. If you want to spend time in Norway, then find a project and volunteer. How about New Zealand? South Africa? Peru? Just send them a message and see what happens. You might be surprised. We were. (more…)

12:21 pm Wednesday—message through WordPress from Carolina (previously unknown to us) in Capetown South Africa: My Mum lives in Tuscany and I received a letter from her where she wrote about Monteloro and the only restaurant of the village. I googled it up and I came across your blog . . . Do you know by the way, Trattoria La Casa del Prosciutto (House of Ham), in Ponte a Vicchio? (more…)

Where do science and religion intersect?

According to artist Cornelia Parker, the two opposites are currently merging in the corner of a room in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. She calls it Anti-Mass, and the work of art is currently housed at the de Young Museum, gallery 16, to be exact.

Recently, when a soulful Southern Baptist Church burned to the ground at the hands of arsonists, Cornelia, with permission, collected and reclaimed the charred timbers of the once-vital wood structure. And then, without permission, she began her magical transformation that would, in her own artistic language, fuse science and religion; mind and heart; tangible and spiritual; grounded and otherworldly; violence and reverence into a powerful image, to lure people out of dualism and at least momentarily, into an awareness of the underlying unity of all things. (more…)

C’era una volta, once upon a time . . . in the Tuscan hills just north of Florence, Italy, lived some very poor farmers. Their homes were usually one room, built high in the mountains, where both family and animals dwelled together. Life was difficult, but they were thankful for what they had. (more…)

Monday morning Italy wakes up.

Saturday is considered a work day, but usually only until lunch. Then shutters are drawn, metal doors rolled down, and phones are silenced—all in anticipation of Sunday, when everything seems to be closed. Trying to find a loaf of bread on Sunday is like a squirrel searching for an acorn in December. (more…)