Angelus Novus

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel
looking as though he is about to move away
from something he is fixedly contemplating.
His eyes are staring, his mouth hangs open, his wings are spread.
This is how the angel of history must look.
His face is turned toward the past.
Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one catastrophe,
which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage
hurling it before his feet.
The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead,
and make whole what has been smashed.
But a storm is blowing from Paradise;
it has got caught in his wings with such violence
the angel can no longer close them.
This storm irresistibly propels him
into the future to which his back is turned,
while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.
This storm is what we call progress.

— Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940).

This painting was owned by Walter Benjamin, the famous philosopher, one of the leading thinkers of the last century. Walter Benjamin committed suicide in 39 in France not succeeding to leave the country before the Nazi invasion. After Benjamin’s death it got in the possession of Theodor Adorno another important intellectual of hebrew origin and since the 80ies it is part of the collection of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

I ran about it reading an essay by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (the curator of dokumenta 13) titled : “On the Destruction of Art-or Conflict and Art, or Trauma and the Art of Healing”
I think there is nothing to add and I will sure come back to talk about Dokumenta 13, an event that has shaken my conscience and gave me more than one esthetic emotion.

good night

4 thoughts on “Angelus Novus

  1. I like Walter benjamin thoughts. I’m getting curious about that essay you’ve mentioned, thanks for sharing! Looking forward to hear more about Dokumenta 13!

  2. Yes Walter Benjamin’s thoughts have an almost tangible form, there are so many dimensions behind that every time you read them there is something new to think about, and the description of Klee’s drawing is a tractatus and a critique and a poem at the same time. About Dokumenta 13 I will surely continue to write since it was one of the most ” I have difficulties to find the right words” exhibitions I have ever seen.

  3. Hi Doris, what a painting Angelus novus is !
    Where can I find the essay you mention?
    Maybe you could be interested in the views about that painting expressed in the “Tutto il ferro della torre Eiffel” novel by Michele Mari; ciao for now! Hugo pane e shugo

    • Hi Hugo Pane e shugo, the essay you can find on Hantje Cantz Verlag website and the you go to e books. But I will try to send you the link. And I will surely read the novel by Michele Mari as soon as possible. I am very curious.

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