‘Hilma af Klint: Tree of Knowledge’ at David Zwirner surveys spirituality in watercolor

‘Hilma af Klint: Tree of Knowledge’ at David Zwirner surveys spirituality in watercolor

On view at the 69th Street location of David Zwirner Galleries in New York City through Feb. 5, 2022, “Hilma af Klint: Tree of Knowledge” showcases eight watercolors from the artist — some of only a few works not held by the Hilma af Klint Foundation.

The exhibition, which shares its title with the artworks, explores watercolors created by the artist in 1913 and 1915 after af Klint’s four-year hiatus. She, like many of her contemporaries, was inspired by spirituality. Moved by an urge to depict the invisible, af Klint spent much of her time exploring the intangible and otherworldly with activities like hosting seances with a group of ethereal women called “The Five.”

Hilma af Klint, “Tree of Knowledge, No. 1,” 1913-1915, Courtesy David Zwirner
Hilma af Klint, “Tree of Knowledge, No. 7b,” 1913-1915, Courtesy David Zwirner

These metaphysical explorations are echoed in many of her pieces, like the renowned series “Paintings for the Temple” — 193 mystic and abstract works that were produced just before af Klint’s aforementioned hiatus. In “Tree of Knowledge,” the artist hints at biblical references as she depicts “the circle of life and death, darkness and light, spirit and matter, and being and becoming,” according to a statement from the gallery.

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“Tree of Knowledge” was duplicated by af Klint, unbeknownst to the art world until recently. She created two nearly identical sets of the paintings, gifting one to Austrian philosopher and founder of Anthroposophy Rudolf Steiner. Following Steiner’s death in the late 1920s, this set of “Tree of Knowledge” was in the possession of artist Albert Steffen, who succeeded Steiner as the president of the Anthroposophical Society. The works were recently uncovered at Albert Steffen Stiftung in Switzerland and now belong to a private collector.

Hilma af Klint, “Tree of Knowledge, No. 4,” 1913-1915, Courtesy David Zwirner
Hilma af Klint, “Tree of Knowledge, No. 5,” 1913-1915, Courtesy David Zwirner

“Tree of Knowledge” at David Zwirner comes to New York City after the acclaimed af Klint solo exhibition “Paintings for the Future” at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2018-19, which brought in a record-breaking influx of visitors to the arts institution and featured works from “Paintings for the Temple.”

Visitors are welcome to see “Tree of Knowledge” at David Zwirner in-person by appointment through Feb. 5, 2022, or online via the gallery’s Viewing Room on its website.

Top Image: Installation view, "Hilma af Klint: Tree of Knowledge," David Zwirner, New York, Nov. 3 – Dec. 18, 2021. Courtesy David Zwirner.