Jenny Anger


On her book Four Metaphors of Modernism: From Der Sturm to the Société Anonyme

Cover Interview of May 20, 2018

The wide angle

The book argues for a new paradigm: only in considering Der Sturm and the Société Anonyme together, can we grasp the extent of their respective influences on Euro-American modernism; both decenter Paris as the capital of modern art. I also argue for the unacknowledged centrality of metaphor in modern art through an exploration of four recurrent metaphors that shape the realm of possibility of art in these intertwined networks. Consideration of metaphor returns allusion and the real to modernist abstraction—a field long thought to be pure and devoid of reference. This re-envisioned modernism, in turn, is more feminine, intermedial, and relational than has been previously understood; the modernist principle of masculine, medium-specific autonomy all but disappears here.

How did such a book come about? My dissertation, followed by my first book, Paul Klee and the Decorative in Modern Art, pointed me toward this project. I was interested in Klee’s early career, and I learned at the Sturm archive at the State Library of Berlin that it took off under Walden’s tutelage in the 1910s. At the same time, I was impressed by the immensity of the Sturm collection, which I was fairly certain had not been studied thoroughly by scholars writing in English. Many years later, I had my hands full studying Der Sturm alone when I discovered its ties to the Société Anonyme. I felt these connections were imperative to pursue, especially because the American angle might appeal to American readers. The addition of the Société Anonyme added a few years to this book’s writing, but I think it tells such a rich story that it was worth it. Indeed, the extra time allowed the metaphors I kept coming across to crystallize in my mind, such that I decided to eschew a conventional historical narrative and, instead, frame each section with a pressing metaphor (which is to say that there were others that felt less urgent and did not make the cut).