Hilma af Klint: Tree of Knowledge

Introduction by Julia Voss. Texts by Susan Aberth, Suzan Frecon, and Max Rosenberg. Helen Molesworth and Joy Harjo in conversation. Julia Voss and William Glassley in conversation. New poetry by Joy Harjo 

The first detailed survey of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint’s groundbreaking Tree of Knowledge series 

“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, af Klint was a pioneer of abstraction. Her first forays into nonobjective painting 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 works on paper 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 book features a text by the art historian Susan Aberth examining af Klint’s spiritual and theosophical influences. With a conversation between curator Helen Molesworth and the US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo discussing connections between Tree of Knowledge and Native theories, 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.


Publisher: David Zwirner Books

Artists: Hilma af Klint

Contributors: Susan Aberth, Suzan Frecon, William Glassley, Joy Harjo, Helen Molesworth, Max Rosenberg, Julia Voss

Designer: Mark Nelson, McCall Associates

Printer: VeronaLibri, Verona

Publication Date: 2023

Binding: Hardcover

Dimensions: 7.75 × 10.75 in | 19.7 × 27.3 cm

Pages: 112

Reproductions: 60 illustrations

ISBN: 9781644230848

Retail: $55 | £45

Status: Available

Hilma af Klint

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 twentieth century predates the first purely abstract paintings by Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevich.

All Hilma af Klint books

Susan Aberth

Susan 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; Not Without My Ghosts; Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist; Surrealism, Occultism and Politics: In Search of the Marvelous; and Leonora Carrington and the International Avant-Garde, among others. Her work has also appeared in Artforum, Journal of Surrealism of the Americas, Abraxas: International Journal of Esoteric Studies, and Black Mirror.

Suzan Frecon

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

William Glassley

William Glassley is a geologist at the University of California, Davis, and an emeritus researcher at Aarhus University, Denmark, focusing on the evolution of continents and the processes that energize them. He is the author of A Wilder Time, more than seventy research articles, and a textbook on geothermal energy.

Joy Harjo

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 and two memoirs, and has edited several anthologies of Native American writing.

Helen Molesworth

Helen Molesworth is a Los Angeles–based writer, podcaster, and curator. Her major museum exhibitions include: Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957, This Will Have Been: Art, Love, and Politics in the 1980s, and Work Ethic. She has organized monographic exhibitions of Ruth Asawa, Moyra Davey, Noah Davis, Louise Lawler, Steve Locke, Kerry James Marshall, Catherine Opie, and Luc Tuymans. 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

Max Rosenberg is an art historian and director of research and exhibitions at David Zwirner. He has a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, and he has received grants and awards from the Dedalus Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Getty Research Institute, among others. He has published articles and reviews in Art in America, Texture zur Kunst, and The Getty Research Journal, and he is the editor of Diane Arbus Documents.

Julia Voss

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 became a bestseller. 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 Lüneburg since 2015. She lives in Berlin with her husband Philipp Deines and two children.

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