Terminology

Avant-garde

Originally a French term, literally the ‘advanced guard’ or the part of an army that goes ahead of the rest. Applied to art, it means that which is in the forefront, which introduces and explores new forms and in some cases new subject matter. Although the term appeared inthe first half of the nineteenth century, the first ‘avant-garde’ art may be said to be that of the Realist Gustave Courbet. In some ways the term avant-garde can be said to be synonymous with ‘modern’. Although frequently identified with art of the early twentieth century, avant-garde is a wider concept (including music and literature), in which the stress lies on the quality and originality of the artist’s vision and ideas.

Cubism

Cubism combines perceptions of an object from varying points of view in a single painting or sculpture. Its originators, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, were highly inspired by Paul Cézanne’s earlier experiments in their development of cubism. They exaggerated the geometric basis of object, dissected and then reconstructed perspective, producing disjointed images that are often highly perplexing. Cubism reached its climax between 1906 and 1914.

Expressionism

Term applied to the movement of artists for whom the representation of subjective feelings and experiences was more important than the depiction of reality. Many Expressionist Works feature bright colours and unnatural figures; some can be described as totally abstract. Expressionist artists worked in various places in Europe, mainly in Germany. The movement enjoyed its heyday between 1905 and 1920.

Fauvism

Term derived from the French word Fauves, or ‘wild beasts’, which the art critic Louis Vauxcelles used in 1905 to denigrate the work of Henri Matisse and his fellow artists. However, the artists adopted this intended insult as a nickname, for they felt it represented euphoria and total creative freedom. The Fauvist style is characterised by vivid colours, rough brush strokes and simplified, often distorted forms. The movement reached its climax between 1905 and 1908.

© Succession Henri Matisse, The Red Room (Harmony in Red), 1908 c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Impressionism

Like Fauvism a term originally used mockingly by critics and subsequently adopted by the representatives of the movement. Impressionism developed in France after 1860 and flourished until 1900. The Impressionists rejected every form of ‘academic’ representation and trusted entirely to their own perception. Their paintings often display an intense combination of sun and shadow.

© Pablo Picasso, Table in a Café (Bottle of Pernod), 1912, co Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Modernism

A broad movement encompassing architecture, art and design, which deliberately sets out to reject the past as a model for art of the present. Because of its insistence that the demands of art change with the times, it is characterised by constant innovation and is inextricably linked with social ideals and the concept of progress, and the terms ‘modernism’ and ‘modern art’ have been applied to the art movements succeeding Courbet and his pronounced Realism, right up to the appearance of abstract art and its various manifestations into the 1960s.

Nabis

Group of artists which formed in Paris in the final decade of the nineteenth century. Drawing their inspiration from Paul Gauguin, they preferred expressive use of colour and form to realistic representation. They endeavoured to endow their work with a powerful mystical charge which they expressed in their name, Nabis (Hebrew for ‘the Prophets’).

Post-Impressionisme

Term used to denote the work of artists (1880-1900) who took the principles of the Impressionists a step further towards individual creative freedom. They considered Impressionism too impermanent in its disregard for painting structure and colour relationships. The work of the Post-Impressionists is often emotionally charged and full of symbolic elements.

Salon d’Automne

Salon is a French word for both a room and a social gathering, used from the eighteenth century as the title of exhibitions (initially biennial and from 1831 annual) in Paris organised by the Académie. As a reaction to the conservative official institution the unofficial Salon des Indépendants appeared in 1884; this awarded no prizes and had no jury; any artist could join. With the decline in standards at the Salon des Indépendants a new salon appeared in 1903, the Salon d’Automne (previously all Salons had been held in spring). Here the jury was chosen by drawing lots amongst new members. The most famous Salon d’Automne was that of 1905, at which the Fauves gained notoriety.

Suprematism

Early twentieth-century art movement, a form of abstract painting, associated with Kazimir Malevich. Adherents to Suprematism sought spiritual reality, expressed in strictly essential forms and colours that engendered total geometric abstraction.

Kazimir Malevich, Black Square, ca. 1930– ‘Staatsmuseum Hermitage St.-Petersburg’

Surrealism

Movement which began in literature around 1924 and focused on the subconscious and on dreams in particular. Surrealists set no limits on the imagination and endeavoured to exclude all forms of rationality and every kind of value judgement.

Symbolism

This was, like Surrealism, initially a literary movement that also took root in art. It developed in France around 1880. Its adherents resisted anything bourgeois, emphasising emotions and the disorientation it provoked. They used mythological and historical scenes as vehicles for the creation of fantastical, mysterious moods.