Precocious Angel


“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 is open, his wings are spread. This is how one perceives the angel of history. His face is towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of 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 that 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


Paul Klee “Social Creatures”
Currently on Exhibit at SFMOMA through July 12.




~ by eaesthete on 04/03/09.

One Response to “Precocious Angel”

  1. Thanks for that copy: there’s quite a few lame-o quality versions online. New wallpaper for iPod yay!

    Are there any other works of art that have been catapulted into the esteemed category – for want of a better phrase – as a result of a critical appreciation I wonder??? Benjamin’s prose is gobsmackingly powerful, considering the era of Angelus Novus. It’s impossible not to look more deeply; whereas, in the normal course of circumstances, it’s easy to imagine scanning the picture quickly and moving on. “Odd style, strange bird shape. Child-like. Next!”
    Benjamin’s quote has a resonance beyond its immediate subject matter or even the wider topic of art appreciation. It speaks to that tendency we all have for walling off our worlds according to our established prejudices. We are lazy. We miss so much..

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