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625 artworks, 199 artists
Avant-garde (fr. avant-garde — advance guard) or avant-gardism is the name of radical art movements of the 20th century. The term derives from the military vocabulary and implies the role of avant-garde artists in art as the discoverers of new art, crusaders against the traditional school of painting. The art of avant-garde aimed at developing a new artistic language, rejecting the established aesthetics and realistic depiction of reality, prompting the viewer to train his associative thinking. The art movement was characterized by simplicity and clarity of details, provocation, shocking and unpredictability.
Representatives of avant-garde gained a reputation for art adventurers due to their unwillingness to follow the stylistic trends and technical rules of the old painting schools. They called themselves “people of the future”, aesthetic revolutionaries. The only thread that connected the avant-garde movements and the past were national traditions. In all other aspects, avant-garde artists were proud of their intransigence on the norms and stereotypes prevailing in society; they assured the society that the experimenters were creating the future.
Avant-gardism appeared in art at the beginning of the 20th century during the period of social and spiritual stagnation and it was closely associated with political and economic events and upheavals. Difficulties in clearly defining the concept of the style are caused by the fact that the experiment took all kinds of forms and ways. As a result, the avant-garde began to include groups of interpenetrating styles, schools, theories and forms of artistic expression. The 1900s in Europe were the time of protest, industrial growth, introduction of numerous inventions, social changes and revolutions. A significant role in society belonged to educated youth, they strove for change, development, and were interested in new trends. At an early stage, innovation in art was rather challenging and sought to be inaccessible to the viewer, but after a decade, the movement representatives found their place in popular culture. The avant-garde became the most controversial style, since it combined destructive and creative principles.
The avant-garde painting was distinguished by its simplicity and rigidity of forms, though it featured a wide range of ideas and concepts. Artists changed the natural colours, grace and pretentiousness of the lines of classical painting to bright, clean, contrasting shades and sharp simplified lines, deformed or blurry shapes. Subjects of the works lost their realism and legibility, in such cases, the painters supplemented the work with a theoretical manifesto, which explained the meaning of the artwork to the viewer. Oppositionists of the traditional art diligently demonstrated “revolutionism” in the content and invention of the new techniques.
The artists experimented with the perspective as well: they created flat landscapes and still lifes, sketchy portraits. The paintings lost their integrity, the primitivism of the details was compensated by the emotionality of the subjects, exotic objects and the appeal to the viewer psyche’s unconscious. The painters worked with their brush in an easy and relaxed way, which created a feeling of unsteadiness of the image. A decade later, avant-garde art developed in several directions: the rational flow with simplified and strict geometric forms, the irrational flow with sophisticated, complex forms and subjects (surrealism), the primitive flow with a primitive, childish performance and exotic, national motifs.