THE russian avant-garde

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Russian avant-garde is a common term denoting a most remarkable art phenomenon that flourished in Russia from 1890 to 1930, though some of its early manifestations date back to the 1850s, whereas the latest ones refer to the 1960s.

The phenomenon of Russian avant-garde does not correspond to any definite artistic program or style. This term was assigned to radical innovative movements that started taking shape in the prewar years of 1907–1914, came to the foreground in the revolutionary period and matured during the first post-revolutionary decade.

Various trends of avant-garde art were united by an emphatic breaking-off not only from academic traditions and eclectic aesthetics of the 19th century, but also from the new art style of modern, which at that time was upmost in all the art spheres from architecture and painting to theatre and design. Russian avant-garde discarded the cultural heritage of the past and rejected continuity in artistic creation. At the same time it combined both destructive and constructive urges: the spirit of nihilism and revolutionary aggression along with ground-breaking energy targeted at creation of something totally new in art and other spheres of life. In different stages these innovative tendencies were referred to with a variety of terms, such as “modernism”, “new art”, “futurism”, “cubo-futurism”, “suprematism”, “constructivism”, “left art”, etc. Just a few years before that nothing in Russian art heralded such a dramatic switcheroo: in the late 19th century Russian official fine arts remained within academic frames. It probably accounts for the fact that such artists as Borisov-Musatov (1870—1905), Valentin Serov (1865-1911) and Konstantin Korovin (1861-1939), though rather traditional by Western standards, were considered quite innovative in this country.

The direction of avant-garde movement, i.e. transition from natural to notional, from sophistication to simplification and pruning, from modernist refinement to primitivism, was similar to that in European art. Analysis reveals that the sources of this tendency lie beyond the Russian art tradition. Unlike in France or Germany, where the avant-garde art development was backed up and encouraged by various philosophical, aesthetic and psychological theories, in Russia it was prompted by the pre-revolutionary atmosphere and the activities of patrons of art and enthusiasts who steered the national art life into the tide of European culture (like Sergei Diaghilev with this Ballets Russes, for instance).


The pioneers of Russian avant-garde, such as for example Natalya Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov, by 1910-1911 already found themselves in the tideway of the most novel European currents, on the level of the most daring and ground-breaking approaches in painting. The most innovative “peasant” canvasses of Natalya Goncharova came concurrently with or right after the famous “negro” works by Picasso. By the mid 1910s the role of avant-garde in art passed on to Russia. From that time everything most pioneering was created in Russia or by natives of Russia.

The connection between the aesthetic revolution and social upheavals of the 20th century is obvious. Russian avant-garde which did not outlast long the Social revolution, was undoubtedly one of its ferments. On the other hand, the firstling of the normative ideological art, Soviet realism, was a direct outcome of this revolution.

 

the intensity of russian avantgarde artists 1890 -1930

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