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October 10, 2014 6:00 PM   Subscribe

Paul Klee: The Silence of the Angel (2005; 51:14) is a documentary about the painter whose lectures/notebooks, The Thinking Eye and The Nature of Nature, have been called "the most complete presentation of the principles of design ever made by a modern artist ... it constitutes the Principia Aesthetica of a new era of art, in which Klee occupies a position comparable to Newton's in the realm of physics."
posted by Monsieur Caution (6 comments total) 76 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for the pointers to the notebooks at Monoskop – I've had those on my Amazon wishlist for ages & ages, but they're criminally out of print & it's rare that you see either of them below $150. Though looking around now, it turns out that there are CD-ROM editions available for $35/each?
posted by with hidden noise at 8:01 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you SO much for posting this. I'm a long time Klee admirer and this was excellent. Made my week. A remarkable man indeed. I'd say he lived a life steeped in examination of his relation to the world he perceived, and had a truly extraordinary way if communicating it to us.
posted by ecorrocio at 8:46 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just read this in the NYRB and can't resist sharing it: the Angelus Novus is Hitler! (Apologies if that's in the documentary—I don't have time to watch it right now.)
posted by languagehat at 12:30 PM on October 11, 2014

This was WONDERFUL. Thanks for finding and posting.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:29 PM on October 11, 2014

the Angelus Novus is Hitler!

That's not in the documentary, no, and although I imagine a general connection could be plausible, I'm skeptical of an easy equation, not entirely because it comes from a self-promoting emeritus chemistry prof writing a crankish letter to the editor about his stageplay and mentioning a source that isn't widely cited by others (Eberlein).

To put some context around the possibility, the work is usually dated to 1920, when Klee and Hitler were both in Munich. One of the few sources that also cites Eberlein puts the date at the first third of 1920. I see that's also the year the party adopted the swastika design Hitler described laboring over in Mein Kampf, so I guess you could suppose Hitler was involved in art/design broadly speaking then. And Hitler separated from the army on March 31 to begin working in politics full-time, so it's conceivable the timeline for Klee's piece overlaps with a moment when Hitler was becoming known. And the party's attack on "degenerate art" was already under way that year, apparently including aggression directed toward Klee's art dealer (says the same source that cited Eberlein). That's two or three different ways that Klee and Hitler might have come into contact from opposing points of view. Then in December, Klee left for Weimar to teach at the Bauhaus, a point briefly covered in the documentary. Also in the doc: some ~1933-era stuff about Klee's persecution by the Nazis, plus the depressing drawings he made during that period.

So I'm not completely disbelieving the connection. That's just the best case I can make for it based on what I can find online, and it seems to want more details to establish anything more than a hunch backed up with confirmation bias. And since there are about a zillion other things Klee might have had in mind, I suspect a hunch is all anyone will have unless there's a letter somewhere that spells it out, and my hunch would be that Benjamin's interpretation, though probably not intended as anything more than an interpretation, may have been informed by a sense of the possibilities he gathered when he acquired it.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:43 PM on October 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks for that informed and informative comment, Monsieur Caution! I hope it was obvious I wasn't personally vouching for the claim, which I assumed was doubtless controversial, I just had never heard anything like it and thought I'd share it. You've both provided an idea of where it came from and thrown an appropriate amount of cold water on it, and I am grateful.
posted by languagehat at 10:08 AM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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