Hilma af Klint: Tree of Knowledge


The only book to spotlight the sensational Swedish artist Hilma af Klint’s groundbreaking, gorgeous Tree of Knowledge series in its entirety


ISBN: 9781644230848 Category:

Hilma af Klint, Julia Voss


“Revelatory and sublime…Her work remains conceptually open enough for viewers to draw their own conclusions, insert their own meaning and feel transported to other glorious worlds.” -The New York Times

One of the most inventive artists of the twentieth century, Hilma af Klint was a pioneer of abstraction. Her first forays into her imaginative non-objective painting long preceded the work of Kandinsky and Mondrian and radically mined the fields of science and religion. Deeply interested in spiritualism and philosophy, af Klint developed an iconography that explores esoteric concepts in metaphysics, as demonstrated in Tree of Knowledge. This rarely seen series of watercolors renders orbital, enigmatic forms, visual allegories of unification and separateness, darkness and light, beginning and end, life and death, and spirit and matter.

Published on the occasion of the exhibition Hilma af Klint: Tree of Knowledge at David Zwirner New York in 2021 and David Zwirner London in 2022, this catalogue features a text by the art historian Susan Aberth examining af Klint’s spiritual and anthroposophical influences. With a conversation between the curator Helen Molesworth and the US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo discussing connections between Tree of Knowledge and native theories about plant knowledge, the publication broadens the scope of philosophical interpretations of af Klint’s timeless work. Also included is a newly commissioned essay by the celebrated af Klint scholar Julia Voss, a contribution by the artist Suzan Frecon, and a text by art historian Max Rosenberg that further develops the conversation around why af Klint’s work was not recognized in its time.

Additional information

Weight 740 g
Dimensions 20.1 x 28.2 cm
Publisher name David Zwirner Books
Publication date 21 June 2023
Number of pages 144
Format Hardback
Contributors Text by Susan Aberth, Suzan Frecon, and Max Rosenberg, Contributions by Helen Molesworth, Joy Harjo, and William Glassley
Dimensions 20.1 x 28.2 cm
Weight 740 g


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Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) is now regarded as a pioneer of abstract art. Though her paintings were not seen publicly until 1987, her work from the early 20th century predates the first purely abstract paintings by Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevich. Af Klint was born in Solna, outside Stockholm, and studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm from 1882 to 1888. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum's 2018 survey of af Klint's work was the first major solo exhibition in the United States devoted to the artist, offering an unprecedented opportunity to experience af Klint's long-underrecognized artistic achievements.

Susan L. Aberth is the Edith C. Blum Professor in the Art History and Visual Culture Program at Bard College. Her publications include The Tarot of Leonora Carrington, co-authored with Mexican curator Tere Arcq, and Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art. She has contributed to the publications Witchcraft; Surrealism and Magic; Not Without My Ghosts; Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist; Surrealism, Occultism and Politics: In Search of the Marvelous; Leonora Carrington: Cuentos Magicos; Unpacking: The Marciano Collection; and Leonora Carrington and the International Avant-Garde, as well as to Artforum, Journal of Surrealism of the Americas, Abraxas: International Journal of Esoteric Studies, and Black Mirror.

Suzan Frecon is an artist known for abstract oil paintings and works on paper. She was born in 1941 in Mexico, Pennsylvania.

A poet, musician, playwright, author, and member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Joy Harjo is currently serving as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, her second term as Poet Laureate. She has written nine books of poetry, two memoirs, and edited several anthologies of Native American writing.

Helen Molesworth is a Los Angeles-based writer and curator. Her major museum exhibitions include: One Day at a Time: Manny Farber and Termite Art; Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957, and Work Ethic. She has organized monographic exhibitions of Ruth Asawa, Moyra Davey, Noah Davis, Louise Lawler, Kerry James Marshall, Catherine Opie, and Luc Tuymans among others. She is the author of numerous catalogue essays and her writing has appeared in Artforum, Art Journal, Documents, and October. The recipient of the 2011 Bard Center for Curatorial Studies Award for Curatorial Excellence, in 2021 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship and in 2022 she was awarded The Clark Art Writing Prize.

Max Rosenberg is an art historian and associate director of research and exhibitions at David Zwirner.

Julia Voss is a curator, art critic, and professor. Her biography of Hilma af Klint was on the shortlist of the Leipzig Book Fair Prize in 2020 and is now available in English from University of Chicago Press. She headed the visual arts department of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung for ten years and has been teaching art history as an honorary professor at Leuphana University in L√ľneburg since 2015. She lives in Berlin with her husband Philipp Deines and two children.