Avant Garde

Avant Garde

What is Avant Garde? 

In French, Avant Garde means ‘advance guard’ or ‘vanguard.’ It represents the people who are ahead of their time. Avant Garde denotes the movement in the arts like anarchism. It is also used as an adjective in the world of Art that describes something of cutting - edge. When applied to art, avant - garde stands true to its etymology to mean a vanguard for an advancing army.  

Any art that is innovative and experimental, makes a clear departure from the prevailing norms of what is art and what defines art, can be termed as an avant-garde. Avant- Order your copy now on www.thesmartartist.in  

Avant gardism has been treated as the criteria of all modern art, where at different stages, sought to make departures from the current. It could be an exploration of new forms as well as subjects, or be catalyzed by social motivations. 

History of Avant Garde Art 

Avant-garde art had begun in the 1850s with the concept of realism given by Gustave Courbet. It was strongly influenced by early socialist ideas and was further followed by the successive movements of modern art. Around first three decades of 20th century, art gave rise to a wave of revolutionary movements and styles. The first one was Fauvism (1905-08) whose color schemes were really dramatic. Then Analytical Cubism (1908-12) was introduced. It was probably the most intellectual of all the avant-garde movements. It rejected the monotonous idea of linear perspective in favor of greater emphasis on the two-dimensional picture plane. German Expressionism was the cutting edge style in Dresden, Munich and Berlin. It was practiced by Die Brucke (1905-13) and Der Blaue Reiter (1911-14).  Futurism introduced its unique aura of movement and urbanization. 

During 1940s, Avant-gardism started evolving more. It was partly abstract art dominated and there was a less scope of finding something entirely new. An influential figure in Avant Garde art was John Cage (1912-92). Postmodernist art arrived in late 1960s and early 1970s which led to the appearance of brand-new forms of contemporary art. These new art forms included Feminist art, Art photography, Installation art and Video art. 

The Idea of Avant-Garde Art 

Originally, the Avant-garde art was applied to the innovative approaches to art arrived during 19th and early 20th centuries. It is applicable to all the art forms that push the boundaries of ideas and creativity, and even today it is used to describe the art that is radical or depicts originality of vision.  The idea of the avant-garde art is that it should be primarily judged on the basis of its quality and originality of the artist’s vision and ideas. 

Avant Garde Art Features: 

The Avant-garde art is denoted by going beyond its time. It explores new artistic techniques and materials that were never had been explored before. The themes chosen within the avant-garde embraces the use of new artistic methods and techniques that would help artists to produce a better art. 

  1. Experimentation: Avant-garde artists used to treat art differently by applying innumerable techniques. Picasso's Cubism was one of those successful techniques. Experimentation technique in the vanguardism started years after the French Revolution. Avant-garde movement was understood as the awakening of art at the beginning of the 20th century. The conventional oil painting paintings were questioned. Avant-garde Art focused more on capturing forms, landscapes, and figures with a new romanticism. That’s how Impressionism was born as one of the great avant-garde schools. 
  2. Preference of geometrical shapes: It is one of the most integral parts of the avant-garde. Interpreted from an abstraction of basic and experimental geometric figures, Geometric Art was not only treated by painters, but even the sculptors also questioned the aspect of art. This gave rise to the movements such as Futurism. This movement represents the form of a spatial ideal of more sinuous forms and metallic textures. 
  3. Shift from rationality to Unnatural: Each avant-garde art had dealt with different themes of art. It broke off the traditional schemes with a style of marked edges that are being used until today. The Avant-garde Art was formed on dramatic color schemes.  It criticized the conventional idea of ​​the Linear perspective which emphasized emphasis on the use of two-dimensionality. 
  4. Changes in color choice: Avant-garde movement shave transformed way the color was used. Suddenly, the forests were being colored red and the stacks of hay became blue. The color combinations were chosen from the artist’s point of view. 
  5. Abstraction: The abstraction of elements from classical art reached a point where it was difficult to simplify forms and figures any more. In the late 20th century, abstraction dominated the art world and it became difficult for artists to create new and surprising pieces. During this time, Jackson Pollock created the technique of painting in action which gave a twist to thepopular subject of abstractionism. The colors and strokes were used to portray emotions and focused on unveiling a message. 
  6. Social Progress: Avant Garde Art was focused on directing social progress and went beyond that of scientists and experts in other disciplines. It also focused on all the aesthetic dynamics, intellectual movements, conventions and methods of artistic production.  
  7. Innovation: Avant Garde Art was really innovative. It rejected the pillars of the fundamental pillars of classical art and turned garbage objects found on the street into three-dimensional collages. 

Avant Garde Movements 

  1. Impressionism:

The very first major movement of modern art was Impressionism. It turned color conventions upside down. Suddenly, the grass was turned red and haystacks could be blue, according to the momentary effect of sunlight as perceived by the artist. In today’s time Impressionism might be considered as a mainstream. However, back in 1870s, the public, as well as the arts hierarchy, were scandalized. 

  1. Dada:

Dada had a profound influence on various avant – garde movements that followed Cubism and Fluxus. Founded by Tristan Tzara (1896 - 1963), Dada was one of the most skeptical movements of all time. It was originated in 1916 and then spread into Berlin, Paris and New York. Dada artists have invented Performance Art and Conceptual Art. Dada made use of readymade products – the everyday objects appropriated as the pieces of art in order to question sensibilities and the role of artists in the creativity. 

  1. Surrealism:

That’s another avant garde movement.  It’s highly experimental principal of the subconscious mind that has been borrowed from a technique called automatism. This movement gave creative freedom to the people as it was never followed by the academic principals. Surrealism combines realistic renderings of subject matter. The surrealists were well - known for dabbling in various forms of art from painting to sculpture to photography and film.  

  1. Cubism:

It’s a well-known avant garde movement. It abandoned the traditional forms and moved towards abstraction. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque played with all the contemporary rules of Western Art and transformed them into something new. The figures were broken into the geometric shapes, while colors were brightened and collage was incorporated into innovative result.  

  1. Fluxus:

Originated in the 1960s and 1970s, Fluxus has been a holistic avant garde movement. It involves designers, artists, poets and composers. It aimed at integrating life into art through the use of sounds, events and materials, thereby transforming prevailing social and economic status of the art world. Fluxus included artists across the world including the Frenchman Ben Vautrier, the Korean artist Nam June Paik, Americans Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles, and the German artist Wolf Vostell. 

Role of Avant Garde Art in Music, Theater and Photography 

During the eighteenth century, Avant-garde art emphasized on redefining the prevailing art.  Avant-garde art was meant to be revolutionized, redefined and thee movement challenged every convention, rule and aesthetic idea. Avant-garde art emerged as the optimum combinations of new and old media such as political engagement, performance and metaphysics. Dada became the first one question the concept of conventional art. As the avant-garde movements increased, the concept started reaching various fields such as music, photography, fine arts and theater. 

The Avant Garde Music 

The Italian Futurism has produced various composers and manifestos. Luigi Russolo had propagated the use of industrial and military noises to create a fresh music. He had built the noise machine which replicated the clatter of the industrial age. John Cage, who had considered himself as an experimental artist, had a more revolutionary vision. He introduced silence as a sound which challenged the conventional meaning of music. This ‘composition’ consists of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. More than a musical piece, Avant-garde music was more of a philosophical statement. Throughout his practice, Cage promoted sounds of nature, altered instruments, the movements of the performer and audience, random noises to the status of music. He also introduced the concept of the prepared piano. The piano was altered by inserting various objects into the soundboard or between the strings to affect the sound. 

The Avant Garde Photography 

The avant-garde photography originated in France. The Surrealist photographers had employed techniques like combination printing, double exposure, and reversed tonality in order to create the imagery blurring the line between the dream and the reality. Russian artists El Lissitzky and Alexander Rodchenko had applied various techniques that served to break the conventions of visual representation such as tilted horizons, extreme close-ups or abstracted forms and perception.  

Avant Garde Theater 

Avant Garde Art aimed at changing the social face of the theater. Avant Garde Art had rejected the traditional method of creating theater. The performers were given enough freedom to act in their own way. Additionally, traditional conventions of mood, tension, space, movement, language and symbolism were altered. 


1.  Name the popular Avant Garde Artists. 

- JMW Turner, Claude Monet, Ilya Repin and Marcel Duchamp are the popular Avant Garde Artists. 

2. Where did Avant Garte Art originate? 

- Avant Garte Art was started in France in the early 19th century.  

3. What have been the stylistic origins of Avant Garde Art? 

-  Romanticism, Expressionism, Classical and Modernism have been the stylistic origins of Avant Garde Art.