Catastrophic Constellations: Picasso's Guernica and Klee's Angelus Novus
by Freddie Rokem
International Journal of Arts and Technology (IJART), Vol. 1, No. 1, 2008

Abstract: This article examines how, during the late 1930s, two paintings, Picasso's Guernica and Klee's Angelus Novus, became contextualised within discourses of catastrophe and conflict, creating what Walter Benjamin in his Passagenwerk termed 'constellations'. Besides presenting this notion and its hermeneutic potentials' I examine the positioning of the historical events during this time within aesthetic discourses. In retrospect' the inter-war years, and in particular the late 1930s, can be viewed as a desperate and finally failed attempt to find an orderly, rational discourse to depict the turbulent, even frenzied situation brought about by the combination of new technologies which in tandem with Fascist ideology made the bombings of Gernica, the first chapter of the Second World War, possible. Benjamin's own text about the Angelus Novus-drawing has become iconic for dealing with such catastrophes, but on a more universal level than the monumental Guernica mural. Picasso's work had been commissioned for the Spanish Pavilion at the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne in Paris in 1937 and almost immediately became acknowledged for its outspoken protest against the Gernica-bombings and Fascism.

Online publication date: Wed, 13-Aug-2008

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