The Art and Life of Hilma af Klint

Thames & Hudson. Feb. 2023. 64p. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780500653173.
Gr 2-6–Unlike biographies that drily outline the birth, work, and death of their subjects, this exploration of Hilma af Klint couldn’t be more different. It’s a wild ride, challenging belief and opening new avenues of thought. A fantastic introduction immediately pulls readers into the story, making them yearn to discover more about this spiritual, artistic young woman. The story is driven forward with a narrative thrust of perseverance despite struggle. Sensory, atmospheric descriptions of her life and work, both as artist and spiritualist, are echoed in the illustrations—simple Scandinavian lines worked with color and shading to give the scenes depth. There are also intriguing comparisons of the scientific discoveries of Hilma’s era (sound and light waves) with her embrace of spiritualism. The science seems so magical and intangible, why couldn’t there be spirits in this invisible world as well? Beside the main story there are also good asides for descriptions of theosophy and alchemy, along with breakdowns of her artistic symbols. The inclusion of her abstract spirit paintings, as well as how the leading artists and spiritualists ignored her contributions, gives scope and depth to her story.
VERDICT This is a welcome and riveting tale of an often overlooked artist, interesting enough to engage any age, from elementary to high school.

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