Archive for October, 2010

A modern idea of impending catastrophe:

October 28, 2010

Paul Klee. Angelus Novus

I post this painting in part because Klee is a cool painter, but also to present a especially notable passage from Walter Benjamin’ Theses on History that interperets the Klee in light of the Theses’ admixture of marxism and Jewish mysticism:

My wing is ready to fly
I would rather turn back
For had I stayed mortal time
I would have had little luck.
– Gerhard Scholem, “Angelic Greetings”

There is a painting by Klee called Angelus Novus. An angel is depicted there who looks as though he were about to distance himself from something which he is staring at. His eyes are opened wide, his mouth stands open and his wings are outstretched. The Angel of History must look just so. His face is turned towards the past. Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet. He would like to pause for a moment so fair [verweilen: a reference to Goethe’s Faust], to awaken the dead and to piece together what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise, it has caught itself up in his wings and is so strong that the Angel can no longer close them. The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky-high. That which we call progress, is this storm.

There is an interesting connection between this and the Yeats poem Leda and The Swan:

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

Putting on his knowlege-might this mean that she is aware of the consequences of what has been done? That would put here in much the same position as the angel and it certainly brings out the idea of impeding catastrophe here.
Incidentally, the poem was written in 1923 and the theses in 1940(They’re probably Benjamin’s last writings). The painting is from 1920.

Art and Science

October 21, 2010

A microarry. This is a recent technical development for studying gene expression

The little colored dots glow. Without going too deep into technical data, the microarray is used to see if genes are expressed with functioning protiens. A glowing dot means that it is at least possible that the gene is being expressed.

Piet Mondrain, Broadway Boogie-Woogie. 1942. MoMA, New York.

After he fled the Netherlands for the United States at the outbreak of WWII, Mondrian lived in New York and was deeply impressed with American music(hence the name). Does this seem like an energetic painting?

This is entirely too much fun.

October 20, 2010

Brought to the attention of this blog by Tyler Green:

Fine beethoven piano piece

October 20, 2010

Modigliani the sculptor

October 8, 2010

This is an interesting aspect of the artist:


Caryatid. Shown here because it relates more closely to his sculpture.

And now the obligartory portrait:

Chaim Soutine

Giovanni Bellini

October 6, 2010

Giovanni Bellini, St. Francis in Estacsy. c. 1480 Frick Collection, NYC.

I don’t often post on religious paintings, but this painting was too good to pass up. It really is a lovely landscape, very peaceful and civilized. It’s also a somewhat interesting painting given its worldly slant-after all, the saint is transported by an especially nice day outside and not a paticularly well-done bible reading. This wouldn’t really strike Bellini’s Venetian audience as that odd though-after all, St. Francis was renowned as something of a proto-naturalist. More to the point, Renassiance Venice was deeply, deeply in love with its own countryside. Venice, besides being on a series of islands, is surrounded by marshes that divide it from the countryside territories it controlled at the height of the Republic. As tends to be the case with anything that is sufficiently distant, that countryside was idealized into a sort of earthly paradise(we can see this process in a very large number of Bellini’s works, as well as that of his contemporaries like Carpaccio). And what could move a man of nature better than an earthly paradise? It doesn’t hurt that the painting is rather optimistic. This is still the early Renaissance, after all, when it still felt like men would never cease to improve.