Hilma af Klint & Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life
20 April – 3 September 2023
Open daily 10.00 – 18.00
Hilma af Klint (b. Sweden, 1862-1944) and Piet Mondrian (b. Netherlands, 1872-1944) were two of the most imaginative artists of the twentieth century. While they never met, they shared the same deep connection to the natural world and the desire to understand the forces behind life on earth. A major new exhibition at Tate Modern, Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life, will put these two visionary painters in close dialogue for the first time. Featuring around 250 works, including paintings, drawings and archival materials, the show will reveal how their art reflected radical new ideas, theories and scientific discoveries in an era of rapid social change.
This will be the largest presentation of Hilma af Klint’s work in the UK to date, with highlights including all ten of her monumental paintings from the series The Ten Largest1907, presented together in the UK for the first time. It will also be the first major UK exhibition in over 25 years to highlight Piet Mondrian’s early work alongside the iconic grid compositions for which he is best known. It will bring together his surprising figurative paintings such as The Red Cloud 1907 and Evolution 1911 as well as early abstract experiments like Composition in colour B 1917, shining a new light on one of the most celebrated modern artists.
Forms of Life will be rooted in af Klint and Mondrian’s fascination with the natural world. Having both started out as representational landscape painters, they each developed languages of abstract art – almost simultaneously – in the early 1900s. Tate Modern will explore how their unique approaches to abstraction were each inspired by new ways of looking closely at nature. Featuring early landscapes, botanical drawings and depictions of flowers and trees alongside abstract paintings, the exhibition will trace how their powerful affinity with nature remained an enduring presence throughout their careers.
The exhibition will also explore how both artists engaged with spirituality and mysticism in their art. The discovery of invisible forces like X-rays, radioactivity and electrons in the 1890s undercut society’s confidence in the solidity of the world around them, revealing what was hidden to the naked eye. Across Europe, artists and thinkers like af Klint and Mondrian turned to esoteric movements like theosophy and anthroposophy as a way of reconciling religion with the modern world
Alongside her work as a professional artist in Stockholm, af Klint was also a medium and believed that her paintings were guided by higher powers. Separate to her conventional landscapes and portraits, from 1905 af Klint created a secret body of mystical paintings, which she insisted should not be seen in public for at least 20 years after her death. Tate Modern will showcase key examples of these works such as the Evolution 1908 and the Tree of Knowledge 1913-15 series. The exhibition will also explore Mondrian’s spiritualist beliefs, including how his geometric, angular and minimal brand of painting was designed to transmit ideas about the essential reality of the universe. Visitors will be able to see these abstract grid paintings in the wider context of his career, alongside the paintings of flowers which he made throughout his life.
At the centre of the exhibition, a large room will bring together sketches, notebooks, and letters from af Klint’s and Mondrian’s archives, offering an intimate look at some of the ideas behind their art. Presented alongside key references such as Goethe’s colour theory, Rudolf Steiner’s blackboard diagrams and Carl Linnaeus’s renderings of the natural world, it will reveal how the two artists developed their own visual languages of signs, colours and shapes as a means to make sense of life on earth.
Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life is curated by Frances Morris, Director, Tate Modern, Nabila Abdel Nabi, Curator, International Art, Tate Modern; Briony Fer, Professor of Art History, UCL, Laura Stamps, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Kunstmuseum den Haag, with Amrita Dhallu, Assistant Curator, International Art, Tate Modern. The exhibition is organised by Tate Modern and Kunstmuseum Den Haag. The exhibition is accompanied by a major new publication in both paperback and hardback formats, fully illustrated and featuring new research on both af Klint and Mondrian.
Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life is supported by the Af Klint and Mondrian Exhibition Supporters Circle, Tate Americas Foundation and Tate International Council.
Tate Members get unlimited free entry to all Tate exhibitions including Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian: Forms of Life. To become a Member, please visit: shop.tate.org.uk/membership
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Image Credit: Hilma af Klint, Group 4, No 3. The Ten Largest, Childhood 1907. The Hilma af Klint Foundation