Archives for posts with tag: Avant-Garde

During the 1930s the Nazi Regime had a stranglehold on Germany. Hitler’s obsession with the classic straightforward style, later on led him to despise Modern Art. The problem was, as he resolutely clung to the past, Avant-Garde taking Europe by storm, with new ideas, energy and dynamic shapes and colours. As these movements took off, Hitler’s own art was left behind.

When he finally had absolute power, Hitler banned all Modern Art from Germany. His men confiscated thousands of Avant-Garde works and many artists such as Max Beckman and Wassily Kandinsky fled Germany to go to Europe and America. One artist, Emil Nolde, who had previously been a supporter of the regime, had over a thousand pieces taken, and was banned from buying art supplies or working at the university. However, he chose to stay in Germany and paint in secret, swapping his oil paints for watercolours so the police would not smell them – he called these ‘unpainted pictures’.

Hitler ordered two exhibitions to be arranged. The first would show ‘degenerate’ art, specifically the banned Avant-Garde pieces, to educate people that this was improper and vulgar. The sculptures and paintings were messily hung up around the room and shoved into corners, with messages painted on the walls.

Image Degenerate Exhibition

The second would show what he considered to be excellent upstanding examples of art that were straightforward and traditional. Unsurprisingly, this did not work as well as he planned. The Degenerate Exhibition took in at least three times as much as the Classical exhibition.

However, Hitler did manage to use some modern art to his own advantage. He recruited Leni Riefenstahl to create nationalistic films from the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany. Her pro-propaganda films became internationally famous. They were very powerful films, returning to the idealised form of the Roman and Greek physique. They glorified death, strength and power. Even the company Hugo Boss produced the uniforms for the SS, based on the traditional uniforms.



This week’s lecture was on The Rise of the Avant-Garde, which appeared around the end of the 1800s and flourished during the 20th century. Before this lecture, I knew very little about Modern Art, but after last week’s lecture on what came before; I was very interested in what would happen next. I believe that after so long of painting in very realistic styles that the world needed this blast of change that came with the appearance of a new, easier way of living, made so by the development of new technology. People needed to open their eyes and realise that there are so many different ways to look at the world and so many places within to look at, so that there could finally be a complete freedom of expression in art.

At this time, many different movements started around Europe. Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism were inspired by painters of the previous century, but much more experimental and dynamic. Constructivism, Suprematism, Futurism and Vorticism were inspired by the new fast-paced technology; its followers loved the speed and noise of the modern industry., and  Dadaism was in protest of the direction in which modern society was moving. I believe the Avant-Garde movement was founded around the idea of looking beyond the immense detail and structure of biology, breaking it down to its most basic visual components. El Lissitzky was a Russian Suprematist, who was well-known for his painting, photography and architecture. He claimed “Our time demands designs that have their origins in elementary forms.” This belief is further studied in his much of his work.

Image Beat the Whites with Red Wedge

Dadaism, in particular, I believe was a huge step forward in art history. Today, artists such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst could be considered contemporary Dadaists. However, when it first came about, it broke through the restrictions of what society considers art to be. Dadaism began in Zurich, Switzerland, and artists from all over Europe living there became part of it. They created ‘non-art’ by changing the context of everyday objects. Duchamp’s Foundation is of the one of the most famous examples, by presenting a urinal out of its usual context and confusing a crowd normally transfixed by gallery work. The fact that a lot of Avant-Garde pieces were refused by galleries meant that Dadaists had to find other outlets to present their work, such as magazines and private viewings. 

ImageFountain, Marcel Duchamp