Hagar and the Angel

A Riff on Claude Lorrain’s Landscape with Hagar and the Angel, Joachim Koester’s Kant Walks, and Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbarn Wall

(Cf., Alan Liu, Wordsworth: The Sense of History —
Chap. 3, “The Politics of the Picturesque: An Evening Walk“)

Claude Lorrain, Hagar and the Angel
Claude Lorraine, Landscape with Hagar and the Angel (1646), National Gallery, London (Presented by Sir George Beaumont, 1828)

Claude Lorrain, Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, 1645, The Cleveland Museum
Claude Lorrain, Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, 1645, The Cleveland Museum

Claude Lorrain, Pastoral Landscape, 1644/45, The Barnes Foundation
Claude Lorrain, Pastoral Landscape, 1644/45, The Barnes Foundation

Fra Angelico, Annunciation (c. 1438), Diocesan Museum, Cortona
Fra Angelico, Annunciation (c. 1438), Diocesan Museum, Cortona

Domenico Veneziano, Annunciation, c. 1445, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Domenico Veneziano, Annunciation, c. 1445, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambrridge

Annunciaton, anonymous, 14th-century, National Museum, Ohrid
Annunciaton, anonymous, 14th-century, National Museum, Ohrid

Thomas Gainsborough Landscape with Cottage and Stream (mid-1750s), Victoria and Albert Museum
Thomas Gainsborough Landscape with Cottage and Stream (mid-1750s), Victoria and Albert Museum

Etching by Benjamin Thomas Pouncy after Thomas Hearne, illustrating the principles of the picturesque in Richard Payne Knight's The Landscape, 1794, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Etching by Benjamin Thomas Pouncy after Thomas Hearne, illustrating the principles of the picturesque in Richard Payne Knight’s The Landscape, 1794, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Joseph Farington, The Waterfall at Rydal, Ambleside, from his Views of the Lakes, 1789, British Museum
Joseph Farington, The Waterfall at Rydal, Ambleside, from his Views of the Lakes, 1789, British Museum

Joseph Wright of Derby, Rydal Waterfall, 1795, Derby Art Gallery
Joseph Wright of Derby, Rydal Waterfall, 1795, Derby Art Gallery
Wordsworth, An Evening Walk:
While thick above the rill the branches close,
In rocky basin its wild waves repose,
Inverted shrubs, and moss of gloomy green,
Cling from the rocks, with pale wood-weeds between;
And its own twilight softens the whole scene,
Save where aloft the subtle sunbeams shine
On withered briars that o’er the crags recline;
Save where, with sparkling foam, a small cascade
Illumines, from within, the leafy shade;
Beyond, along the vista of the brook,
Where antique roots its bustling course o’erlook,
The eye reposes on a secret bridge
Half grey, half shagged with ivy to its ridge; . . .

Lower Rydal Falls with Summer House (Photo: Alan Liu)
Lower Rydal Falls with Summer House (Photo: Alan Liu)

Lower Rydal Falls with Summer House
Lower Rydal Falls with Summer House

Lower Rydal Falls with Summer House (Photo: Alan Liu)
Lower Rydal Falls with Summer House (Photo: Alan Liu)

Summer House at Lower Rydal Falls, from the bridge (Photo: Alan Liu)
Summer House at Lower Rydal Falls, from the bridge (Photo: Alan Liu)
Jacques Khalip, “The Ruin of Things”:
“… what often goes unsaid is how the poet’s blessing of Margaret’s thingification in fact marks the point where the rubble is asserted as having a spooky perspective all by itself: as an object of care and not appropriation, the rubble is hospitably turned away from because in this refusal of identification, a refusal of the viral nature of sympathetic co-existence, a different kind of non-recognitional “ministering” is formed. Such distractions signify a life that is neither subjective nor objective, between being and non-being; . . .”
Joachim Koester, The Kant Walks #1 (2005)
The Kant Walks #1 (Photos taken 2005 in Königsberg/Kalingrad)
C-print, 47,5 x 60,3 cm
Framed 68,5 x 80 cm
Edition of 5 (+ 2 AP)

Joachim Koester, Kant Walks  (2005) (#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7)

Email from Alan to Jacques, 20 June 2018:

. . . I don’t have any well-shaped thoughts yet about the Kant Walks. But these some hurried, stray thoughts that come to mind:

The images and their making compress together at least three kinds of modern perambulation:

  • Kant’s and later Koester’s “circular” strolls are like the circular strolls of “ideology” layered over workaday “mentalities” that Moretti talks about in the maps chapter of his Graphs, Maps, Trees (pp. 38-42). That is, they are the leisurely and reflective strolls of a cultural and intellectual class that walks according to a different idea/ideal of what a walk is for and what one sees on it. In an urban context, we would need to inflect the notion of the “village story” walks that Moretti discusses in the direction of Benjaminian flâneury.
  • The workaday walking and other travel patterns (ordinary transportation and transmission channels, as in the power lines in Koester’s photo #7) are nevertheless everywhere in plain sight, even if some of the routes are barred by wire fences.
  • Most of the workaday routes and their boundaries can be trespassed by Koester, however, because that is the nature of the junkspace that WW II made. Koester’s walking around in circles that traverse all the ordinary boundaries is thus different from Kant’s original circular walks. The difference is the impress of the war on the urban landscape, which would need to be read in a post-Benjaminian mode as that jumbled pile of things that the angel of history sees in his flight (refugee retreat) backwards.
So the outcome of these stray thoughts is: I wonder whether to understand modern “repose” we need to take account specifically of the retreating, backward-looking posture of terrified repose that the Benjaminian angel of history enacts. That’s not the rest of calm given to a Mary (or Hagar) during the conturbatio of an annunciation of a new history. Nor is it the sentimental, look-homeward angel pastoral nostalgia of the tourists of the Lakes beginning in the 18th century. It’s the restless retreat on the journey of the modern refugee.
Anyway, just hurried thoughts.
–Best, Alan

 

Kurt Schwitters, Merzbarn Wall (1947-48) at the Hatton Gallery (Photograph: Nick May).