PAINTING AND SPIRITUALITY
HILMA AF KLINT - TYRA KLEEN - LUCIE LAGERBIELKE
5 OCT 2019 – 9 FEB 2020
In the autumn, Millesgården will present the exhibition Painting and Spirituality – Hilma af Klint, Tyra Kleen and Lucie Lagerbielke, featuring some 20 works by each artist. In addition to painting, drawings, graphics and embroidery, the exhibition will include a number of objects related to its topic. We will also present some of the philosophies that inspired the artists, including spiritualism, theosophy and anthroposophy.
The artists shared an interest in spirituality, which affected not only their art but also their
lives. They were also writers, who committed their thoughts and experiences to paper. They all enjoyed privileged backgrounds; Hilma af Klint and Tyra Kleen were aristocrats and Lucie Lagerbielke, the daughter of one of Sweden’s richest men, married into the aristocracy. All made life choices that at the time were considered unusual for women; they were intellectuals and prioritised their work and their art before family and children. Despite common points of departure and interests, their art differs greatly, both in terms of expression and working methods.
Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) has received much acclaim in recent years after several international
exhibitions of her work. She stipulated that several of her paintings and works on paper should not be displayed publicly until twenty years after her death. However, it would take longer than that before Hilma af Klint’s art was finally seen. Today, her work attracts much attention and is very well received. A talented artist, Hilma af Klint was educated at the Technical School and the Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm where she painted portraits and landscapes. She took an early interest in spiritual matters and participated in spiritualistic séances. During a séance at the beginning of the 20th century, she was commissioned by another dimension to create art. In the first years of the 20th century, she sensationally painted works in an entirely abstract almost concretist style. These abstract paintings are full of symbols. She claimed that she, periodically, was directed by a higher power that used her as an instrument for mediating information from other worlds. Her painting was primarily influenced by Rosenkreutz, Theosophy and Christianity. At the age of 60, Hilma af Klint began to study anthroposophy and recorded her thoughts on the life of the soul and the spiritual dimensions she wished to convey via her art in 124 books of more than 26,000 handwritten and typed pages. Her manuscript “Studies of the Life of the Soul”, 1917, comprises in excess of 2000 typed pages.
Tyra Kleen (1874-1951) worked with drawing, painting, photography, lithography and writing. A self-claimed vagabond, she spent much time abroad. Studying in Paris at the turn of the century, she was influenced by symbolism and interested in theosophical mysticism and spiritualism. In Stockholm and later in Rome, her interest intensified and she joined a theosophical association. Tyra Kleen was a prominent draughtswoman for whom form was always more important than colour. Although representative, her art depicts worlds beyond the physical and motifs inspired
by myths and legends. She sought out countries where a spiritual approach to life was considered normal. In 1911, she travelled to Sri Lanka and India, and in 1914 she journeyed to Indonesia where she stayed for two years. She described her experiences in images and texts. The paintings from this period were exhibited at Liljevalchs, Stockholm. Tyra Kleen also made the decision that her art should not be publicly displayed until 50 years after her death. Therefore, it is only in the 21st century that her work has been recognised.
Lucie Lagerbielke (1865-1931), née Smith, was an author of theosophical books and an artist. The daughter of L. O. Smith, a Swedish spirits manufacturer and politician, known as the “King of Spirits”, she married into the noble Lagerbielke family and had two daughters. In 1906, when she was widowed, she began to engage seriously in writing and painting and was strongly influenced by esoteric philosophies. Her sister Mary Karadja was a well-known spiritualist and one of Stockholm’s most famous mediums. Lucie Lagerbielke wrote under different pseudonyms, including “Vitus”, with which she also signed her paintings. She claimed that her novel En sällsam upplefvelse (A Rare Experience) had been spiritually dictated to her by Edgar Allan Poe. She also claimed that her art was guided by higher powers. In addition to a religious mystic, Lucie Lagerbielke was an intellectual who actively promoted Christian spirituality while rejecting the Church and its interpretation of the Bible. On her death she left a large number of watercolours, drawings and oil paintings. She participated in only one art exhibition, posthumously, Nio Unga (The Nine Young Ones) at Liljevalchs, Stockholm in 1932.