Who Painted Hilma af Klint’s Otherworldly Visions?

Susan L. Aberth at Artforum:

In recent years we have heard much about The Five, the spiritualist group of women—af Klint, Cassel, Cornelia Cederberg, Sigrid Hedman, and Mathilda Nilsson—who channeled messages from “higher powers” from 1897 to 1907. A gifted medium, Cassel would eventually come to dominate the group, while af Klint played a more subsidiary role. It was working together outside of this quintet, however, that af Klint and Cassel each began to receive messages from the spirit realms asking for their participation in a “special mission.” The ensuing visual collaboration resulted in numerous preliminary sketches and twenty-seven small oil paintings executed between October 1906 and September 1907; this is the inaugural series of “The Paintings for the Temple” and thus a crucial juncture in the history of abstraction. Titled “Series I” or “The First 26 Small Ones” (the title would be changed later to “Primordial Chaos”), this body of work endeavored to visualize the so-called Akashic records: a supernatural compendium, as elucidated by Theosophy’s cofounder and chief theoretician, Helena Blavatsky, of all universal events and thoughts occurring in the past, present, and future and concerning all life forms. Analyzing the works in Cassel’s notebooks, Martin has convincingly been able to parcel out fourteen works belonging to her in this series and includes two comparisons that illustrate the women’s different styles. Cassel paid greater attention to detail, for example, and her application of paint was more careful and smoother than af Klint’s expressive surfaces, resulting in a deeper saturation of color.

more here.