What is avant-garde art?

Early Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde Read more from
Chapter The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

As with many art terms, the word avant-garde comes from French and roughly translates to “vanguard.” Avant-garde art is art that is on the “front lines,” and the term can be used to describe any innovative or new modern art. The experimentations of avant-garde artists, writers, and thinkers often cause shock, and even anger, among critics and general audiences. The mid-nineteenth-century paintings of Eduoard Manet, especially Olympia and Dejeuner sur l’Herbe shocked audiences for their confrontational nudity and manipulation of traditional subject matter. Throughout the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, waves of avant-garde movements have continued to ruffle feathers and push boundaries, from Monet’s Impressionist experimentations, to Cubism, to Duchamp’s Fountain (1917).


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