Scholars from diverse disciplines tackle the many questions posed by the work and life of abstraction pioneer Hilma af Klint In this thorough critical appraisal, 20 specialists on modern art, art history, philosophy and religious studies examine the unique art, the cultural circumstances and art-historical positioning of Swedish abstractionist Hilma af Klint. Topics explored here range from early abstract art and the impact of Darwinism to Goethe's color theory, as well as the importance of occult religious movements such as theosophy and anthroposophy that influenced the early modernists, and discussions of af Klint's own personal diary notes and research. The book is based on the seminars that were held in conjunction with the exhibition Hilma af Klint: A Pioneer of Abstraction in 2013. This extremely successful exhibition attracted a record number of visitors to the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, after which it continued to the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum in Berlin and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark.
Many modernist and avant-garde artists and authors were fascinated by the occult movements of their day. This volume explores how Occultism came to shape modernist art, literature, and film. Individual chapters examine the presence and role of Occultism in the work of such modernist luminaries as Rainer Maria Rilke, August Strindberg, W.B. Yeats, Joséphin Péladan and the artist Jan Švankmaier, as well as in avant-garde film, post-war Greek Surrealism, and Scandinavian Retrogardism. Combining the theoretical and methodological foundations of the field of Esotericism Studies with those of Literary Studies, Art History, and Cinema Studies, this volume provides in-depth and nuanced perspectives upon the relationship between Occultism and Modernism in the Western arts from the nineteenth century to the present day.
Between 1875 and 1947, a period bookended, respectively, by the founding of the Theosophical Society and the death of notorious occultist celebrity Aleister Crowley, Britain experienced an unparalleled efflorescence of engagement with unusual occult schema and supernatural phenomena such as astral travel, ritual magic, and reincarnationism. Reflecting the signal array of responses by authors, artists, actors, impresarios and popular entertainers to questions of esoteric spirituality and belief, this interdisciplinary collection demonstrates the enormous interest in the occult during a time typically associated with the rise of secularization and scientific innovation. The contributors describe how the occult realm functions as a turbulent conceptual and affective space, shifting between poles of faith and doubt, the sacrosanct and the profane, the endemic and the exotic, the forensic and the fetishistic. Here, occultism emerges as a practice and epistemology that decisively shapes the literary enterprises of writers such as Dion Fortune and Arthur Machen, artists such as Pamela Colman Smith, and revivalists such as Rolf Gardiner
Long overlooked, the natural philosophy and theosophy of the Scandinavian scientist-turned-mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) made a surprising impact in America. Thomas Jefferson, while president, was so impressed with the message of a Baltimore Swedenborgian minister that he invited him to address both houses of Congress. But Swedenborgian thought also made its contribution to nineteenth-century American literature, particularly within the aesthetics of American Transcendentalism. Although various scholars have addressed how American Romanticism was affected by different currents of Continental thought and religious ideology, surprisingly no book has yet described the specific ways that American Romantics made persistent recourse to Swedenborg for their respective projects to re-enchant nature. In A Language of Things, Devin Zuber offers a critical attempt to restore the fundamental role that religious experience could play in shaping nineteenth-century American approaches to natural space. By tracing the ways that Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, and Sarah Orne Jewett, among others, variously responded to Swedenborg, Zuber illuminates the complex dynamic that came to unfold between the religious, the literary, and the ecological. A Language of Things situates this dynamic within some of the recent "new materialisms" of environmental thought, showing how these earlier authors anticipate present concerns with the other-than-human in the Anthropocene.