Unlike yin-yang, the symbol of harmony between two opposites, the picture shown here is lacking obvious harmony. The left half, reminiscent of sun and water or blue sky, does not captivate my eye.
By contrast, the dark half circle on the right with its light perimeter makes me think of a view through the Kuiper belt into the distant universe; 95% of the matter of the universe, dark energy & dark matter, not perceived by our senses; and neurons in our brains not utilized.
The next image shows the painting with its proper orientation: The Swan, No 17. 1915; 150×150 cm by Hilma af Klint, a Swedish Painter (1862 – 1944).
Other af Klint paintings, currently on exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum, NYC, also have a ‘soft’ right and a ‘more solid’ left half. Why does viewing the painting in its proper orientation make me feel uncomfortable while I love looking at it horizontally rotated?
Hilma af Klint studied at the Royal Academy of the Fine Arts in Stockholm. During her life, she was known as painter of landscapes, portraits and botanical art.
Privately, inspired by mysticism, she started painting ‘abstract art’ in 1906, novel for Europe and Russia but practiced in other parts of the world such as in Australia by Aborigines.
During the next two years, af Klint painted large organic forms and mandelas in which blue, yellow and pink/red stood for female, male and sensual/ spiritual love, respectively. But in 1908, she stopped painting for four years. — After her amorous affair with Dr. Helleday, she decided to remain single. She took care of her mother who went blind. She gave up or changed her studio (different accounts). During those dry 4 years, she met Rudolf Steiner, a theosophical colleague, who advised to hide her abstract art for the next 50 years.
From 1912 – 1915, af Klint again painted abstract art but now in a more authoritative, geometric style. She executed “Paintings for the Temple’, a task commissioned by a spirit whom she called Amaliel. Other severely geometric paintings are the ‘transcendent’ swan series, among them the picture discussed at the beginning of this post.
Subsequently af Klint dedicated herself more fully to studying theosophy and anthroposophy.
Later, after reading Goethe’s color theory, af Klint painted with water-color, wet-on-wet, allowing the colors to flow into one another, very different from her earlier botanical paintings.
At the beginning of the 20th century esoteric spiritualism was also practiced by Kandinsky (1866-1944), Malevich (1879-1935), and Mondrian (1872-1944), other painters of abstract art.
Emotional responses to colors. Different artist imbue colors with different symbolism. Interestingly, Hilma af Klint and Franz Marc (1880-1916) associated blue with their own gender and yellow with the opposite gender.
3 thoughts on “Hilma af Klint, symbolism”
Great blog post, Birgit! Interesting that she and Franz Marc both associate blue with themselves and their gender and yellow with the opposite. Her color choices are fascinating.
Sierra, yes, different perceptions of the same color! The same color choice – painter in blue, opposite gender in yellow – is seen in Oskar Kokoschka’s painting “Painter and His Model II”, currently exhibited at the Neue Galerie, NYC
So well done Birgit! I am enjoying rereading your blog on New Year’s Day!! Best Wishes to you!