Hilma af Klint. The Large Figure Paintings, The WU/Rose Series, Group III No 5, The Key to All Work to Date. 1907. Oil on canvas, 59 1/16 × 46 7/16" (150 × 118 cm). Photo: Albin Dahlström
  • MoMA, Floor 5, 505 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

Between 1911 and 1914, a new generation of artists made a radical shift toward abstraction. Rather than depict objects in the world, they experimented with interactions between forms and colors. “These colored planes are the structure of the picture,” said artist Robert Delaunay, “and nature is no longer a subject for description but a pretext.”

The trailblazers of abstraction hailed from a number of European cities, but many of them flocked to Paris, the burgeoning center of the art world. Some used shifting, kaleidoscopic forms to capture the dynamism of modern, mechanized life. Others, reacting warily to the effects of industrialization, turned inward to explore the spiritual dimensions of pure color. As painter František Kupka remarked, “The creative ability of an artist is manifested only if he succeeds in transforming the natural phenomena into ‘another reality.’”

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