The Swedish painter Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) was forty-four years old when she broke with the academic tradition in which she had been trained to produce a body of radical, abstract works the likes of which had never been seen before. Today, it is widely accepted that af Klint was one of the earliest abstract academic painters in Europe.

But this is only part of her story. Not only was she a working female artist, she was also an avowed clairvoyant and mystic, thrilled by the newest developments in science, deeply concerned about social change and reforms, in exchange with spiritual forces, a passionate lover and futurist thinker. Af Klint even came to England once: In 1928 she traveled to London to exhibit her paintings at the “World Conference on Spiritual Science”, organized by the English branch of the Anthroposophical Society.

Well before Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevich declared themselves the inventors of abstraction, af Klint was working in a nonrepresentational mode, producing a powerful visual language that continues to speak to audiences today. The exhibition of her work in 2018 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York attracted more than 600 000 visitors, making it the most-attended show in the history of the institution.

The lecture will lead through Hilma af Klint’s life and work – questions and commentaries from the audience are more than welcome!


Julia Voss is a German art historian, art critic, curator, and the author of “Hilma af Klint. A Biography”, just published by Chicago University Press. Inspired by her first encounter with the artist’s work in 2008, Voss set out to learn Swedish and research af Klint’s life – not only who the artist was but what drove and inspired her. The biography was a bestseller in Germany and on the shortlist of the prestigious Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair in 2020.

Until 2017 Voss was the art editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In 2015 she was appointed honorary professor at Leuphana University, Lüneburg. For her PhD in art history and history of science she traveled regularly to Cambridge in order to study the Darwin papers and library. Her book “Darwin’s Pictures. Views of Evolutionary Theory, 1837-1874” was published by Yale University Press in 2010.


Professor Alyce Mahon specialises on the dynamic between the body and the body politic in modern and contemporary art, photography, film and exhibition practice – from Dada, Surrealism and the Sixties counter-culture to contemporary feminist and performance art.

Mahon has been involved in numerous international exhibitions as advisor, catalogue contributor and guest curator. Most recently she curated the first major retrospective of American Surrealist Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012), for the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid (Oct. 3, 2018-Jan. 6, 2019) and Tate Modern London (Feb 28 – June 9 2019). She was also the curatorial advisor for the first retrospective exhibition of Surrealist Leonor Fini in the US, Leonor Fini: Theater of Desire, 1930-1990, for the Museum of Sex, New York (Sept. 28, 2018 – March 4, 2019). Mahon has contributed to the accompanying catalogues for, and often acted as curatorial advisor to, major exhibitions on modern and contemporary art throughout her career, especially advancing research and the profile of women of the avant-garde.

She was awarded a British Academy/ Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship for 2017-2018, and has been a Distinguished Scholar for the Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Foundation’s Scholars Exchange Programme with the University of Cambridge (2004), giving a series of academic and public lectures across China; a Research Fellow at the Columbia University Institute for Scholars, Reid Hall, Paris (2005); a Visiting Scholar at Princeton University (2006-07); and an Andrew Mellon Teaching Fellow at CRASSH, Cambridge (2009).


This talk will run from 17:00-18:00 and will be followed by a drinks reception.