In my figure painting class, we just learned about an artist named Hilma Af Klint, who was actively creating abstract art since 1907. She and four other women created a religion in which their deities “commissioned” artwork for a temple that was to be built. Hilma was the only one of The Five (this was the name of their religious group) to take on the task of producing the artwork for the temple.
Her artwork is very abstract, however she began these painting about seven years before the big names in the abstract movement – Kandinsky, Mondrian – began producing their famous works.
Before her major “commission”, Af Klint painted landscapes and dabbled in medical illustration. One might see how her previous experience influenced her later abstract works – some of her pieces resemble cells and organelles. Although her work never made it to the temple of her gods, her artwork now hangs on the walls of the Guggenheim until April.