Movie Review – Hilma

Hilma posterChristina here with a movie review, which is something the Wenches thought we would try occasionally this year if we came across one we would really like to recommend. As the film in question is biographical, I have combined it with information about the subject of the movie, who was a real person.

I have to admit I don’t often go to the cinema to see Oscar-worthy films because I usually find them either boring or too sad. (I’m very shallow in my movie choices!). It has always seemed to me that the more heart-wrenching the story, the more Oscars it gets. And I don’t handle sad endings well. However, a little while ago I let my neighbour drag me along to see a film called Hilma. It’s a true story about a Swedish artist called Hilma af Klint, and she was more or less unknown until fairly recently.

Hilma_af_Klint _portrait_photograph_published_in_1901Hilma was born in 1862, the daughter of a naval commander. She and her family spent their summers on the idyllic island of Adelsö in Lake Mälaren, west of Stockholm. Here she became inspired by her surroundings and all the beautiful shapes found in nature. She loved botany and was interested in science and mathematics, but it was clear early on that she was brilliant at drawing. The family moved to Stockholm, where she studied landscape painting and portraiture at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. When she graduated, she was given a scholarship which gave her the use of a studio. She supported herself by painting landscapes, portraits and botanical drawings, but that wasn’t really the type of art she was truly interested in.

Eftersommar_Hilma_af_Klint_1903

"Late Summer" 1903

Judging by the movie, I’d say she was somewhat mentally disturbed, or at least very different in her thinking throughout her life. Her younger sister Hermina, with whom she had been very close, died when Hilma was in her late teens and this tragedy affected her deeply. I think it unhinged her slightly. Hermina’s death sparked an interest in spiritualism, and she seems to have spent a lot of time trying to contact her sister via spiritual mediums. She started to read about theosophy (see explanation below), and became obsessed with the works of Rudolf Steiner, who had his own theories about the Arts and other subjects. When he came to Stockholm to give a lecture, she was introduced to him, and later met with him again in Switzerland. She desperately wanted him to like and understand her paintings, but apparently he wasn’t very impressed. That crushed her, and she was so upset that she stopped painting for several years.

(Theosophy, according to Wikipedia, “teaches that the purpose of human life is spiritual emancipation and says that the human soul undergoes reincarnation upon bodily death according to a process of karma. It promotes values of universal brotherhood and social improvement, although it does not stipulate particular ethical codes.”)

Hilma_af_Klint _1906-07 _Primordial_Chaos_-_No_16

"Promordial Chaos No16" 1906-7

Hilma joined a group of women artists (later called “The Five”) who shared her beliefs and helped her. They seem to have been early feminists, and if the movie is to be believed, Hilma was also in a relationship with one of them for many years. These women often held seances and Hilma claimed she was “told” by the spirits what to paint. Sometimes they even guided her hand, literally, according to her. These works of art were compositions that were supposed to represent spiritual ideas. A lot of them were geometric shapes, like spirals and petals. She wanted to build a ’Temple’ to hang them in, in the shape of a spiral, or a snail’s shell. At the time no one wanted to know and didn’t want to give her the money for this, which frustrated her.

Hilma af Klint  Public domain  via Wikimedia Commons 10 largest no 5

"Ten Largest" No5

She painted a collection of 193 abstract paintings which were intended for the ‘Temple’. Some of them were very large and represent the different phases of life. She continued to be inspired by the spiritual, and added symbols, letters and words. Many of her paintings are symmetrical shapes, and she used colours to represent various things, for example blue was the female spirit, yellow the male. She is considered to be the one of the first artists to paint abstract works. Others like Kandinsky and Mondrian came after her, which means she was a pioneer of this style. It is possible they were influenced by some of her paintings.

8_hilma_af_klint _altarpiece_no_1 _1915

"Altarpiece No1" 1915

The ’spiritual guidance’ eventually came to an end, but she carried on painting abstract motifs for the rest of her life. She continued to try to make sense of her thoughts, and jotted these down in more than 150 notebooks. Later in life, she lived on another island in Lake Mälaren called Munsö, where she seems to have finally built a studio where her paintings could be displayed.

She died in 1944, aged almost 82, after a traffic accident, leaving a vast collection of paintings and diaries to her nephew, Erik af Klint. However, disillusioned at her death, she decreed that her paintings were to be hidden away for 20 years. She didn’t think the world would be ready to see or understand her art until then. When they were finally unearthed again, they were a sensation.

Hilma_af_Klint_-_1914_-_Svanen

"The Swan" 1914

I can’t say that I like them because I really don’t – I’m not a fan of modern art – but I was greatly moved by her story. The film itself is a masterpiece of filmmaking directed by Lasse Hallström and starring his wife and daughter. The settings are stunning, shot in the Stockholm archipelago where the summer light is fantastic. And the old towns and costumes depicted in the movie are recreated in an elaborate and authentic way. Ultimately, one can see it as a sad tale of a woman who didn’t manage to achieve her dreams during her lifetime, but at the same time, she did triumph in the end. I believe she now has the recognition she deserved.

900px-Group_IX_SUW _The_Swan_No._9_by_Hilma_af_Klint_(13939)

"The Swan No9"

Definitely worth a look if you like that sort of film or even if, like me, you usually don’t!

Have you heard of Hilma – seen the film or attended an exhibition of her work? And are there other artists whose work you feel has been undervalued?

[All photos from Wikimedia Commons]

110 thoughts on “Movie Review – Hilma”

  1. Fascinating, Christina! No, I’ve never heard of her, and yes, it’s wonderful that she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves. I’m not a huge fan of modern art–give me the Pre-Raphaelites, who painted beautiful and whose pictures told stories–but I do like some of the examples of Hilma’s work that you put in your blog. Many thanks!

    Reply
  2. Fascinating, Christina! No, I’ve never heard of her, and yes, it’s wonderful that she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves. I’m not a huge fan of modern art–give me the Pre-Raphaelites, who painted beautiful and whose pictures told stories–but I do like some of the examples of Hilma’s work that you put in your blog. Many thanks!

    Reply
  3. Fascinating, Christina! No, I’ve never heard of her, and yes, it’s wonderful that she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves. I’m not a huge fan of modern art–give me the Pre-Raphaelites, who painted beautiful and whose pictures told stories–but I do like some of the examples of Hilma’s work that you put in your blog. Many thanks!

    Reply
  4. Fascinating, Christina! No, I’ve never heard of her, and yes, it’s wonderful that she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves. I’m not a huge fan of modern art–give me the Pre-Raphaelites, who painted beautiful and whose pictures told stories–but I do like some of the examples of Hilma’s work that you put in your blog. Many thanks!

    Reply
  5. Fascinating, Christina! No, I’ve never heard of her, and yes, it’s wonderful that she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves. I’m not a huge fan of modern art–give me the Pre-Raphaelites, who painted beautiful and whose pictures told stories–but I do like some of the examples of Hilma’s work that you put in your blog. Many thanks!

    Reply
  6. Very interesting blog. I had never heard of Hilma – the movie sounds interesting. I’m not much of an art critic. I know what I like and what I don’t like, but it would be had for me to explain why. Photography interests me much more than paintings.

    Reply
  7. Very interesting blog. I had never heard of Hilma – the movie sounds interesting. I’m not much of an art critic. I know what I like and what I don’t like, but it would be had for me to explain why. Photography interests me much more than paintings.

    Reply
  8. Very interesting blog. I had never heard of Hilma – the movie sounds interesting. I’m not much of an art critic. I know what I like and what I don’t like, but it would be had for me to explain why. Photography interests me much more than paintings.

    Reply
  9. Very interesting blog. I had never heard of Hilma – the movie sounds interesting. I’m not much of an art critic. I know what I like and what I don’t like, but it would be had for me to explain why. Photography interests me much more than paintings.

    Reply
  10. Very interesting blog. I had never heard of Hilma – the movie sounds interesting. I’m not much of an art critic. I know what I like and what I don’t like, but it would be had for me to explain why. Photography interests me much more than paintings.

    Reply
  11. No I had never heard of her and I’m with you in that I don’t like modern art. I don’t understand it so maybe that’s the problem 🙂

    Reply
  12. No I had never heard of her and I’m with you in that I don’t like modern art. I don’t understand it so maybe that’s the problem 🙂

    Reply
  13. No I had never heard of her and I’m with you in that I don’t like modern art. I don’t understand it so maybe that’s the problem 🙂

    Reply
  14. No I had never heard of her and I’m with you in that I don’t like modern art. I don’t understand it so maybe that’s the problem 🙂

    Reply
  15. No I had never heard of her and I’m with you in that I don’t like modern art. I don’t understand it so maybe that’s the problem 🙂

    Reply
  16. What an interesting post, Christina; thank you for introducing me to this artist. Her landscape above is impressive, and I like “Altarpiece No1”, too.
    I hadn’t known of her, but her name makes me think of Gustav Klimt.

    Reply
  17. What an interesting post, Christina; thank you for introducing me to this artist. Her landscape above is impressive, and I like “Altarpiece No1”, too.
    I hadn’t known of her, but her name makes me think of Gustav Klimt.

    Reply
  18. What an interesting post, Christina; thank you for introducing me to this artist. Her landscape above is impressive, and I like “Altarpiece No1”, too.
    I hadn’t known of her, but her name makes me think of Gustav Klimt.

    Reply
  19. What an interesting post, Christina; thank you for introducing me to this artist. Her landscape above is impressive, and I like “Altarpiece No1”, too.
    I hadn’t known of her, but her name makes me think of Gustav Klimt.

    Reply
  20. What an interesting post, Christina; thank you for introducing me to this artist. Her landscape above is impressive, and I like “Altarpiece No1”, too.
    I hadn’t known of her, but her name makes me think of Gustav Klimt.

    Reply
  21. One of the tragedies of the pandemic is that I missed out in seeing her exhibition when it was in Sydney. Her work is amazing. I’m a great fan of Kandinsky so to find out about a woman whose work pre dated his was very exciting. Ah, well maybe one day I’ll see her work in the flesh.

    Reply
  22. One of the tragedies of the pandemic is that I missed out in seeing her exhibition when it was in Sydney. Her work is amazing. I’m a great fan of Kandinsky so to find out about a woman whose work pre dated his was very exciting. Ah, well maybe one day I’ll see her work in the flesh.

    Reply
  23. One of the tragedies of the pandemic is that I missed out in seeing her exhibition when it was in Sydney. Her work is amazing. I’m a great fan of Kandinsky so to find out about a woman whose work pre dated his was very exciting. Ah, well maybe one day I’ll see her work in the flesh.

    Reply
  24. One of the tragedies of the pandemic is that I missed out in seeing her exhibition when it was in Sydney. Her work is amazing. I’m a great fan of Kandinsky so to find out about a woman whose work pre dated his was very exciting. Ah, well maybe one day I’ll see her work in the flesh.

    Reply
  25. One of the tragedies of the pandemic is that I missed out in seeing her exhibition when it was in Sydney. Her work is amazing. I’m a great fan of Kandinsky so to find out about a woman whose work pre dated his was very exciting. Ah, well maybe one day I’ll see her work in the flesh.

    Reply
  26. Yes I like the paintings that are not modern in style – she was very good! I thought at first she was related to Klimt until I realised he’d name had an N instead of M.

    Reply
  27. Yes I like the paintings that are not modern in style – she was very good! I thought at first she was related to Klimt until I realised he’d name had an N instead of M.

    Reply
  28. Yes I like the paintings that are not modern in style – she was very good! I thought at first she was related to Klimt until I realised he’d name had an N instead of M.

    Reply
  29. Yes I like the paintings that are not modern in style – she was very good! I thought at first she was related to Klimt until I realised he’d name had an N instead of M.

    Reply
  30. Yes I like the paintings that are not modern in style – she was very good! I thought at first she was related to Klimt until I realised he’d name had an N instead of M.

    Reply
  31. Christina-I’ve never heard of Hilma and I doubt I will see the movie. But the paintings are gorgeous! I’m always attracted or to use a more accurate word-mesmerised-by an artists’ use of color and shape and Hilma executed both magnificently, IMHO. Thank you for a very thoughtful post.

    Reply
  32. Christina-I’ve never heard of Hilma and I doubt I will see the movie. But the paintings are gorgeous! I’m always attracted or to use a more accurate word-mesmerised-by an artists’ use of color and shape and Hilma executed both magnificently, IMHO. Thank you for a very thoughtful post.

    Reply
  33. Christina-I’ve never heard of Hilma and I doubt I will see the movie. But the paintings are gorgeous! I’m always attracted or to use a more accurate word-mesmerised-by an artists’ use of color and shape and Hilma executed both magnificently, IMHO. Thank you for a very thoughtful post.

    Reply
  34. Christina-I’ve never heard of Hilma and I doubt I will see the movie. But the paintings are gorgeous! I’m always attracted or to use a more accurate word-mesmerised-by an artists’ use of color and shape and Hilma executed both magnificently, IMHO. Thank you for a very thoughtful post.

    Reply
  35. Christina-I’ve never heard of Hilma and I doubt I will see the movie. But the paintings are gorgeous! I’m always attracted or to use a more accurate word-mesmerised-by an artists’ use of color and shape and Hilma executed both magnificently, IMHO. Thank you for a very thoughtful post.

    Reply
  36. I’m fascinated by the way some people/souls contend with intention vs reality, whether there’s a clear win, failure, or (best of all) wringing the most out of the struggle. Hilma’s story has given me a fine conversation in my mind. Thanks, Christina.

    Reply
  37. I’m fascinated by the way some people/souls contend with intention vs reality, whether there’s a clear win, failure, or (best of all) wringing the most out of the struggle. Hilma’s story has given me a fine conversation in my mind. Thanks, Christina.

    Reply
  38. I’m fascinated by the way some people/souls contend with intention vs reality, whether there’s a clear win, failure, or (best of all) wringing the most out of the struggle. Hilma’s story has given me a fine conversation in my mind. Thanks, Christina.

    Reply
  39. I’m fascinated by the way some people/souls contend with intention vs reality, whether there’s a clear win, failure, or (best of all) wringing the most out of the struggle. Hilma’s story has given me a fine conversation in my mind. Thanks, Christina.

    Reply
  40. I’m fascinated by the way some people/souls contend with intention vs reality, whether there’s a clear win, failure, or (best of all) wringing the most out of the struggle. Hilma’s story has given me a fine conversation in my mind. Thanks, Christina.

    Reply
  41. Thanks for the film review. It does sound like an interesting film. I had never heard of Hilma, but I am not interested in modern art. I think I am not smart enough to recognize what that art is supposed to represent. I like trees that look like trees. And people who look like people. I mean, I think I would be taken aback if I met a woman who looked like a Picasso woman.
    It does seem that Hilma had disappointments in her life. That is sad, because it is evident she was a talent in modern art who was a pioneer. I may not be a fan of modern art, but I certainly realize that many people are huge fans.
    Thanks again, you always teach me something. That is quite a gift to me.

    Reply
  42. Thanks for the film review. It does sound like an interesting film. I had never heard of Hilma, but I am not interested in modern art. I think I am not smart enough to recognize what that art is supposed to represent. I like trees that look like trees. And people who look like people. I mean, I think I would be taken aback if I met a woman who looked like a Picasso woman.
    It does seem that Hilma had disappointments in her life. That is sad, because it is evident she was a talent in modern art who was a pioneer. I may not be a fan of modern art, but I certainly realize that many people are huge fans.
    Thanks again, you always teach me something. That is quite a gift to me.

    Reply
  43. Thanks for the film review. It does sound like an interesting film. I had never heard of Hilma, but I am not interested in modern art. I think I am not smart enough to recognize what that art is supposed to represent. I like trees that look like trees. And people who look like people. I mean, I think I would be taken aback if I met a woman who looked like a Picasso woman.
    It does seem that Hilma had disappointments in her life. That is sad, because it is evident she was a talent in modern art who was a pioneer. I may not be a fan of modern art, but I certainly realize that many people are huge fans.
    Thanks again, you always teach me something. That is quite a gift to me.

    Reply
  44. Thanks for the film review. It does sound like an interesting film. I had never heard of Hilma, but I am not interested in modern art. I think I am not smart enough to recognize what that art is supposed to represent. I like trees that look like trees. And people who look like people. I mean, I think I would be taken aback if I met a woman who looked like a Picasso woman.
    It does seem that Hilma had disappointments in her life. That is sad, because it is evident she was a talent in modern art who was a pioneer. I may not be a fan of modern art, but I certainly realize that many people are huge fans.
    Thanks again, you always teach me something. That is quite a gift to me.

    Reply
  45. Thanks for the film review. It does sound like an interesting film. I had never heard of Hilma, but I am not interested in modern art. I think I am not smart enough to recognize what that art is supposed to represent. I like trees that look like trees. And people who look like people. I mean, I think I would be taken aback if I met a woman who looked like a Picasso woman.
    It does seem that Hilma had disappointments in her life. That is sad, because it is evident she was a talent in modern art who was a pioneer. I may not be a fan of modern art, but I certainly realize that many people are huge fans.
    Thanks again, you always teach me something. That is quite a gift to me.

    Reply
  46. Thank you Annette! I too prefer to know what I’m looking at but I know lots of people love modern art. We are all different!

    Reply
  47. Thank you Annette! I too prefer to know what I’m looking at but I know lots of people love modern art. We are all different!

    Reply
  48. Thank you Annette! I too prefer to know what I’m looking at but I know lots of people love modern art. We are all different!

    Reply
  49. Thank you Annette! I too prefer to know what I’m looking at but I know lots of people love modern art. We are all different!

    Reply
  50. Thank you Annette! I too prefer to know what I’m looking at but I know lots of people love modern art. We are all different!

    Reply
  51. So interesting & kind of a continuation of Andrea’s blog from the other day. I don’t really like modern or abstract art either but I do love color and both of you provided a lot of it. Happy!

    Reply
  52. So interesting & kind of a continuation of Andrea’s blog from the other day. I don’t really like modern or abstract art either but I do love color and both of you provided a lot of it. Happy!

    Reply
  53. So interesting & kind of a continuation of Andrea’s blog from the other day. I don’t really like modern or abstract art either but I do love color and both of you provided a lot of it. Happy!

    Reply
  54. So interesting & kind of a continuation of Andrea’s blog from the other day. I don’t really like modern or abstract art either but I do love color and both of you provided a lot of it. Happy!

    Reply
  55. So interesting & kind of a continuation of Andrea’s blog from the other day. I don’t really like modern or abstract art either but I do love color and both of you provided a lot of it. Happy!

    Reply
  56. OMG I LOVE that Swan picture! It’s stunning in it’s depiction of the soul feeding on itself as it is trying to burst from a cocoon into a butterfly. Not too mention the four elements depicted in unusual shades of color. Great review.

    Reply
  57. OMG I LOVE that Swan picture! It’s stunning in it’s depiction of the soul feeding on itself as it is trying to burst from a cocoon into a butterfly. Not too mention the four elements depicted in unusual shades of color. Great review.

    Reply
  58. OMG I LOVE that Swan picture! It’s stunning in it’s depiction of the soul feeding on itself as it is trying to burst from a cocoon into a butterfly. Not too mention the four elements depicted in unusual shades of color. Great review.

    Reply
  59. OMG I LOVE that Swan picture! It’s stunning in it’s depiction of the soul feeding on itself as it is trying to burst from a cocoon into a butterfly. Not too mention the four elements depicted in unusual shades of color. Great review.

    Reply
  60. OMG I LOVE that Swan picture! It’s stunning in it’s depiction of the soul feeding on itself as it is trying to burst from a cocoon into a butterfly. Not too mention the four elements depicted in unusual shades of color. Great review.

    Reply

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