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Senior Fellowship 2020
Annie Bourneuf’s The Angelus Novus and Its Interleaf takes its starting point in the American artist R. H. Quaytman’s surprising discovery in 2015 that Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus (1920) —best known for its role in the writings of Walter Benjamin, its first owner—conceals an engraved portrait of Martin Luther, mostly, but not entirely, hidden behind Klee’s oil-transfer drawing of a huge-headed, bird-footed, snaggle-toothed angel.
In her close examination of Klee’s small icon of European modernism, and of pictures and texts circulating around it, Bourneuf shows how Klee’s picture can be understood as a superimposition of images in artistic and religious conflict, which inspired Benjamin to figure the kind of exchange among religions that planned for his abortive journal project of 1921-22, titled Angelus Novus after the picture. Bourneuf’s combination of assiduous archival research and reexamination of objects and sources, including the network of little magazines around the failed Angelus Novus journal project, allows her to trace a dense tangle of contentious conversations among works of art, and writings about them, that took place in the aftermath of the First World War. In doing so, she sheds new light on the ways that romantic anticapitalist circles imagined possible new relations between art, politics, and religions (primarily, but not exclusively, Judaism, Protestantism, and Catholicism).
Annie Bourneuf is an associate professor in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her book Paul Klee: The Visible and the Legible (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015) was awarded the 2016 Robert Motherwell Book Award.