Avant - Garde Art Defintion

Gustave Courbet's - The Stone Breakers 1849
This painting is an important demonstration
of new approaches towards subject matter and representation
in nineteenth century French art
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The term Avant-Garde refers to an individual or creative group who are in the vanguard of their respective fields and are breaking new ground. In the visual arts Avant-Garde refers to innovation and the application of new concepts and techniques in the creation of art. Avant-Garde artists are at the forefront either ideologically or with regard to treatment of subject matter, or both. From a historical perspective Avant-Garde as a concept can be attributed to the growth of the bourgeoisie in nineteenth century France. (Read more after Break)

The emergence of the Avant-Garde was in response to the growth of the middle-class as the new dominating social force in Western society. The Avant-Garde sought to make a critique of the social class by detaching itself from it and challenging the middle-class's values through their art. Avant-Garde artists as a result endeavored to critique bourgeoisie institutions such as the Salon and the Ecole des Beaux Arts for upholding the values and manner of representing subject matter of the past, and in doing so Avant-Garde artists such as Gustave Courbet constantly challenged and defied what had been decreed as convention by such institutions through his radical subject matter and the manner in which he treated his subject manner. As Courbet would represent the harsh, brutal existence of the rural peasantry on a monumental scale, thus challenging convention by endowing his figures with the prestige of History Painting. Thereby challenging the hierarchy of the genres, as upheld by bourgeoisie institutions; and by showing disregard for tradition and conventions through their innovative treatment and approach towards their subject matter. In summary the avant-garde artists where contesting the traditional practices and conventions within the art world, by seeking to undermine their influence and control over artistic modes of expression; and in doing so they revolutionised treatment and handling of subject matter and supplanted modes of display which were rooted in the past by trying to represent contemporary society in their art. As these influential artists were operating in an age of modernity.    

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