Since the end of the 19th century, it was noticeable that something was changing in the world of art. The artistic avant-gardes of the 20th century were the logical response to a series of changes in the world of art (especially painting) that are closely linked to technological advances that allowed, among many other things, to stop worrying about representing an image. as faithfully as possible to “simply” capture it through photography or film.
This technological change, in addition to the arrival of the beginning of the end of modernity that had been marking the times since the Enlightenment, made artists understand painting, architecture and sculpture differently.. Now the artist’s work was no longer focused on achieving a perfect technique that would perfectly represent what he intended to show, but instead became a representation of the relationship between the “I” of the artist and the world.
Thus, after the First World War, when the situation in Europe stabilized, the ferment that we discussed earlier had the conditions to grow. Thus, in 1916, when Hugo Ball, a German poet, opened the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich (which was neutral territory), the key moment for the departure of the artistic avant-gardes of the 20th century was given.

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1. What are the artistic avant-gardes?
2. The 10 most important artistic avant-gardes of the 20th century. What are the artistic avant-garde?
The avant-garde is, above all, a reaction to an established line in a discipline (be it politics, painting, cinema,…), a desire for change. The avant-garde movements that dominate the artistic situation during the first third of the 20th century are a response to the established rigidity and the historical changes that always affect art (Industrial Revolution, Bourgeois Revolutions in France in the 19th century, etc).
The avant-garde are a series of artistic movements that are not related to each other beyond thatthey are brief, they were aimed at the cultural and intellectual elites of the moment, and they followed each other in a few frenetic years in which the art world lived through an explosion seen very few times before. The launch of the avant-garde comes with impressionism in the nineteenth century , it is the first movement that can be considered a precursor to the avant-garde. And they continue to this day, passing through the pop art of Warhol, the brutalism of Le Corbusier or Basquiat. But those that belong to the historical period of the “isms” are the following: The 10 most important artistic avant-gardes of the 20th century
There are many avant-garde movements but not all of them deserve to occupy a place of preference in the history of art here are some of the most celebrities, not in chronological order.1. Impressionism Impressionism was the movement that allowed the avant-garde to break free from previously established corsets . It is not an avant-garde movement as such, but it is worth mentioning because of its importance in the flourishing of later avant-gardisms.
Rising Sun. | Claudio Monet.
His greatest contributions were the liberation of the use of color, the love of light and technical advances. The great painters of this movement were Monet (as a precursor), Degas, Manet, Renoir or Cezanne. His influence on the avant-garde is very important , since the vast majority of them lived through the First World War and the rise of the “isms”.
Cezanne, for example, actually left the group and became the vanguard of the avant-garde of Cubism. Painting focuses on color and light and stops worrying about form, here is the connection with the avant-garde movements of the 20th century. 2. Expressionism
It is both the latest trend outside the avant-garde and the first artistic manifestation of the same period and it is so by intention. Expressionism tries to express feelings of the human being: likes and dislikes, likes and dislikes, and does not need especially technical painters to carry out this objective.
Famous expressionist authors are Munch (author of ‘The Scream’), Klimt or Schieleand stand out for expressing emotions well, unlike impressionism, which focused on aesthetics above all else.
The Scream. | Edward Munch.
As a theory , he was firmly opposed to the realistic ideas that reigned in European culture during the 19th century (just look at the novel or the interest in photography) and his influence reached many other disciplines. It is worth noting, among them, the German expressionist cinema with masterpieces such as The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. Expressionism is an agglutinating movement that has several very different aspects. So much so that, in the end, it will be these versions that will lead to the avant-garde. 3. Constructivism
Constructivism was a movement promoted by Lissitzky, and one of the pioneers of the avant-garde as such. Between Germany and Russia, I carried out constructivism, a mixture of expressionism and Dadaism that had a strong presence in Russia at the beginning of communism .
One of Lissitzky ‘s key works and the most representative of constructivism are the Proun: geometric designs between the artistic and the architectural but impossible to carry out in the real world as they break the laws of perspective.
Proun 1 D. | Lissitzky.
Constructivism was born in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century and is characterized by the inclusion of the concepts of space and timethat gave continuity to the work, in addition to the inclusion of geometric motifs. 4. Cubism Cubism may be the most important avant-garde movement of all ; certainly is one of the most. He was born in France in 1906. It focuses on breaking down the images into geometric figures, inclusion of letters in the paintings and a splitting of the author’s personality in the painting.
The feelings of expressionism go into the background and an attempt is made to represent reality in its entirety through geometric decompositions of different planes of it .
Its importance lies in the fact that, unlike impressionism and expressionism, it is the first definitive break with previous art and realistic representation painting. The great artists of Cubism are Picasso (its initiator), Juan Gris, Delaunay or Georges Braque .
The bombing of Guernica. | Pablo Picasso.
From Picasso this phrase is preserved that shows how the movement developed:
“When we did Cubism, we had no intention of doing Cubism, but only to express what we had inside.”
What the cubists carried inside was the rupture of perspective , which was what little remained of traditional painting that began in the Renaissance with key works such as La Gioconda. 5. Surrealism
If Cubism is the most important “ism” of the artistic avant-gardes of the 20th century, Surrealism is the most famous. Led by Salvador Dali and Andre Breton, surrealism drank from Freud’s theories of the subconscious and psychoanalysis and wanted to develop an art that connected with the subconscious.
In literature they encouraged automatic writing to create beautiful and enigmatic compositions. In cinema, montage became essential to achieve a sequence of images that would remind us of dreams, where his inspiration came from.
Face of the Great Masturbator. | Salvador Dali.
In painting it was somewhat more complicated but much more spectacular. With Dali as the greatest exponent, during the decade of the 20s, surrealism exploded with a use of shapes and color (in addition to the very personal symbolism of each author) that continues to be essential to understand aesthetics today and during the 20th century. The surrealists were the first who, on a canvas, dreamed of the deformed shapes that would inspire so many things in the 20th century : architecture, furniture, pop culture, etc. The first appearance of the term surrealism corresponds to Guillaume Apollinaire in his The Tits of Tiresias:
“When man wanted to imitate the action of walking, he created the wheel, which does not look like a leg. In the same way he has unconsciously created surrealism… After all, the stage is no more like the life it represents than a wheel is like a leg.”
It is therefore a creative representation of reality through the human mind. 6. Futurism
A visionary avant-garde at the time that was not used with the artistic intelligence it deserved. Marinetti’s futurism saw in the technological changes that the world was experiencing an inexhaustible source of inspiration . The automobile, the factories, the machinery … Everything related to the progress of technology was important for the futurists who wanted to see the human being rise above what he had never done before.
The dynamism of a car. | Luigi Russolo. He was born, obviously, in Italy in 1909. He had a short but inspiring tour for better and for worse: Duchamp or Delaunay are influenced by Futurism, but he also gets many sympathizers among the intellectuals who support Mussolini in Italy. 7. Fauvism
Fauvism is a movement born in France around 1904. Its name comes from fauve, beast in French . Like so many other names in artistic trends, a critic put it on when he saw the first exhibition in Paris with paintings of this type. The great artist (the most recognized) of this movement was Henri Matisse , and gathers the ideas of philosophers like Nietzsche or novelists like Zola, who believed that experience was essential to understand life, which they revered.
Restaurant de la Machine in Bougival. | Maurice de Vlaminck.
To capture all this on the canvas, color becomes the indisputable element, displacing shapes and silhouettes. For Matisse, color could do everything and served to express everything that painting could express .
Of all the great avant-garde movements, Fauvism was the last one that stood out for painting in the open air , from then on the studios were the refuge of artists who studied and decomposed forms and re-tried space. Fauvism achieved it with an exceptional color treatment. 8. Ultraism Ultraism was an avant-garde movement born in Spain in the late 10s of the 20th opposition to the great currents of the time: Modernism and Noucentisme.
Unlike other avant-garde movements, poetry becomes an indisputable piece to understand Ultraism and, in fact, its references are Vicente Huidobro, Apollinaire and Mallarme.
Max Aub, one of the Spanish writers who embraced the movement, picks up the elitist spirit of the avant-garde by proposing a:
“Desire for separation from the masses, bringing to its natural end what was started by the “rare” of the late nineteenth century. Literature was ‘of’ and ‘for’ initiates”
The famous writer Jorge Luis Borges participated in the development of ultraismbut he was not the only great writer who adopted some of his ideas; Guillermo de la Torre or a young Gerardo Diego were also related to the movement. He proposed a renewal of poetry that included the use of metaphor, the elimination of rhyme, the taste for objects and words of the modern world or the elimination of accessory words 9. Dadaism Dadaism was born in Cabaret Voltaire , as a form of go against the state of the arts at the time. Painting and writing were the highest expressions of Dadaism, often combined.
The name that is most associated with Dadaism is that of the Romanian Tristan Tzara (who gave his name to the movement by opening a dictionary at random and finding the given word), but also that of other great artists of the moment such as the Duchamps or Marcel Janco.
This avant-garde rebelled against everything that meant bourgeois art and the idea of ​​philosophical positivism (idea that comes from the Enlightenment and that believes in the permanent progress of society if it trusts in reason and science).
Cathedrals of Broadway. | Florine Stettheimer.
Thus, all Dadaist works tend to lack logic , whether they are words, images… or actions. Because Dadaism also became a way of living and relating to the world. A world that seemed incomprehensible seen through the eyes of those who had lived through the First World War.Dadaism goes against everything absolute: beauty, eternity, immovable thought, purity ,… and thus art was questioned in a particular way that today is still the root and inspiration of many avant-garde movements of different disciplines. 10. Estridentismo
Estridentismo is a late avant-garde, which resulted from the union of several movements. It took place in Mexico between 22 and 27. It was fundamental for the artistic development of the Aztec country and includes artists from very varied disciplines who believed in a total renovation of the artistic situation.
Exterior scaffolding. | Fermin Revueltas.
It is said that the name comes from the stir that formed around it. Like so many other avant-garde movements, such as futurismcomes from the revolution that led to the industrial revolution . In addition, its eminently Mexican character generated a very high consumption of Mexican culture.