Hilma af Klint’s The Swan
series explores masculine and feminine energy, and becomes increasingly abstract and less representational as the paintings progress. No longer guided solely by spirits, af Klint explored her own responses to various themes in her rapidly developing language of abstraction. This piece, the nineteenth in the series, features a ground split into 8 differently coloured sections, with a nautilus or snail shell in the centre. The spiral and related shell-like imagery is a recurring motif in af Klint’s work.
Hilma af Klint
The Swan, The SUW Series, Group IX: Part I No. 19
FSC Certified paper and wood
Date of work
Original: Oil on canvas 148.5 × 152 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.