The “Avant-garde” movements

Artistic Movements, Periods and Styles in 5 Points

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The “Avant-garde” Movements


  • “Avant-garde” is a French term for “advanced guard,” and in the military world refers to a squad at the forefront, which with courage opens the way for the army coming behind. The word is used to name the movement that at the beginning of the 20th century revolutionized the art by fighting the traditions of the official Salons and the Academies, their rules and their conventions.
  • In general, avant-garde movements are based on postulates written in manifestos. They challenge existent values and in general they are progressive. This is very important, as art started to be considered not just art, but also an agent of change of society. A society that in an industrialized world and in full development, instead of progressing sank in the misery that would lead to revolution and war.
  • The aim of art is no longer to reflect faithfully the exterior world but to express the artists’ inner world, their own view of the things. Beauty is no longer as important as it is the search of the truth.
  • Each movement has its own aesthetic ideas, but there are three elements in common to greater or lesser extent: 1) The “expression” or subjectivity of the artist. 2) Color as a tool to transmit emotions. 3) Abstraction or tendency to abstraction.
  • More than a century has passed, and nevertheless, avant-garde movements are still considered to be amazing, innovative, modern, “current.” However, and without discrediting them, let’s think that the real great “break” with tradition occurred a little earlier, in the second half of the 19th century, with movements such as Realism, Impressionism and Symbolism, which at that time were “rejected” by official art. Realism renounced idealized beauty and showed the truth, with its beauty and ugliness. Impressionism broke with the traditional way of representing things. It was no longer interested in the outside world, but in how it is perceived. Symbolism rejected reality and got immersed into the unconscious.


Representative movements: Cubism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Futurism, Neo-Plasticism, Suprematism, Constructivism, Dada, Surrealism. They were not consecutive movements, some coincided in time, and many famous artists belonged to more than one.


Image: Woman with a Hat (1905). Matisse. Fauvism.


Recommended links:

Fundamental Differences between Analytic and Synthetic Cubism.

Fundamental Paintings to Understand the History of Painting: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Picasso.

Primitivism in Modernity.


Fundamental Paintings to Understand the History of Painting: Mont Saint-Victoire, Cézanne.

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1 Comment

Karin · 20 January, 2022 at 5:26 pm

Great idea! To make 3 minutos de arte available to English-speaking fans. Check this out, though: “Beauty is no longer as important as it is the search of the truth” should read “BEauty is no longer as important as is the search for truth”.

Los felicito!

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