This piece is the first in Hilma af Klint’s The Swan
series. Featuring two literal representations of the titular bird, the artist uses this first piece to highlight the dualities she is exploring in the series. Two swans, one white and one black, meet beak-to-beak in the middle of the piece, wingtips touching, each the negative image of the other. By using the swan as her visual key to the concepts she explores, af Klint is referencing alchemy, where the image of a swan represents opposites in harmony. Black and white, masculine and feminine, and light and dark are all explored throughout af Klint’s series.
Hilma af Klint
The Swan, The SUW Series, Group IX: Part I No. 1
FSC Certified paper and wood
Date of work
Original: Oil on canvas 150 × 150 cm Hilma af Klint Foundation
Hilma af Klint (1862 – 1944) was a Swedish artist, considered to be the first abstract artist in Western art history. Talented in mathematics and botany, she studied painting at Tekniska skolan in Stockholm, and then the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. She initially painted landscapes, portraits and botanical illustrations, but from 1906 she began creating large scale abstract artworks as part of her explorations of theosophy and spiritualism. Believing herself to be guided by a higher power when creating these radically abstract works, she did not exhibit them in her lifetime, and left instructions for them not to be shown until two decades after her death. She is now recognized as a pioneer in abstraction, predating the works of Malevich, Kandinsky and Mondrian.