By Isadora Sartosa
When people pronounced the word “Avant-Garde”, our thoughts fly to Paris, to Montmatre, if we are more precise, and to the last part of the 19th century or to the beginning of the 20th one… always before the Second World War.
Eighty years of creative and innovative artists and authors who constantly seek new ways of expression disobeying academic rules and conservative ways of behavior: Impressionists, Fauvists, Dadaists, Expressionists…. and so on.
Therefore, “Avant-Garde” is a good word to establish a relative chronology, useful for teachers and easy classifications. But, how about the meaning and semantic connotations of it?
In 1874, Claude Monet exhibited “Impression Sunrise” breaking with the style of painting, the treatment of light and the subjects of representation of the Neoclassicism… A scandal!
However, in 1601, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio had painted “The Crucifixion of Saint Peter” breaking with the artificial rules that Mannerism had shown for more than a century. Caravaggio was radical in his naturalism finishing with the elegant Madonnas of the 16th century (he used to choose prostitutes and beggars as models to represent his Virgins and Saints) and starting a new period where ideal beauty was not appreciate and wrinkles, old skins and different human deformations were the main motive for artists: the Baroque.
Furthermore, he changed the treatment of light: diaphanous during the Renaissance, artificial during the Mannerism… tenebrous after him and the enormous success of his works. If an artist, at the beginning of the last century, had changed the shift from dark to light on this way, finishing with the intermediate values of colour and masterly using more than fifty different kinds of black at the picture background, it would not have been a scandal? Of course, yes. However, in 1601, his paintings were appreciated by the Pope and in despite of his rebel art and worst life (he has been constantly accused of killer and slaughterer), nobody dare to despise his fantastic master pieces. Some priests were disappointed with his models, that is true, but anyway, “The Crucifixion of Saint Peter” is in the Cerasi Chapel, in Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome.
Then, what happened in Monet’s times? Academicism and Enlightenment had stolen free opinions? Was the press living of scandals… of stupid posh scandals which always happened in The Salon of Paris?
I think in all of the centuries have existed “avant-garde” people and creation or innovation are and old ability of mankind… another day I will speak of El Bosco.