War and Art

In this article about Hilma af Klint two themes draw my attention.

First, not having been clobbered by twentieth-century wars is a sad and sobering distinction to apply to a city.

While there is not currently any comprehensive display of af Klint’s abstract works in Sweden… I discovered… that it is possible to move around Stockholm… and connect with her life… and its artistic context… It helps that Stockholm was untouched by the destruction of 20th-century wars….

(Andrew Ferren, “In Search of Hilma af Klint, Who Upended Art History, But Left Few Traces,” NYTimes, 10-21-19)


Much of Stockholm still looks as it did in Hilma af Klint’s time, with ornate, low-rise buildings, many from the 19th century, and vessels darting to and fro on the city’s bustling waterways. Credit Erika Gerdemark for The New York Times.

An author whose name escapes me wrote some years ago in The Atlantic magazine that, although the twentieth century saw the advent of cars, planes and computers, what history will record most will be its wars.

Second, the report of persons bursting spontaneously into neutral tears (“neither happy nor sad”) upon viewing af Klint’s paintings is something to think about.

Iris Muller Westermann, who curated a 2013 af Klint exhibition at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet remembers leading tours “with very pulled-together bourgeois types who appeared completely in control of everything until they suddenly burst into tears. Neither happy nor sad, it was as if spending time with Hilma’s paintings spurred something inside them that needed an outlet.”


Hilma af Klint was the unexpected star of last year’s cultural calendar with a show at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum that set attendance records. Credit George Etheredge for The New York Times.

Before shrugging off those bourgeois tears as not pulled-together, I reminded myself that only recently I got slightly soppy myself while describing to a friend the vocal stylings of Aretha Franklin in one of her songs. Art can spur.

(c) 2019 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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