These are the 12 most famous Avant-Garde paintings from art history.
Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet (1872)
Impression, soleil levant is credited with inspiring the name impressionist movement. It depicts the port of Le Havre, Monet’s hometown in northern France. The hazy scene of this painting strayed from traditional landscape painting and idealized beauty. Loose brush strokes are meant to suggest the scene rather than to mimetically represent it and demonstrate the emergent impressionist movement.
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso (1907)
This painting by Picasso is the most famous example of cubism painting. He abandoned all known forms and representations of traditional art and used distortion of the female body and geometric forms in an innovative way. These five nude women all appear to be frightfully detached, and entirely unconscious of each other, as they concentrate singularly on the viewer with a direct look. With the ethnic primitivism evoked in this painting, Picasso made a radical departure from traditional European painting, as the two women on the right are shown its African mask-like features.
The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali (1931)
Dali, a Spanish surrealist, renowned for his technical skill and the striking images in his work painted one of his most famous works The Persistence of Memory or Melting Clocks, and therefore developed a surrealistic image of soft, melting pocket watches. The idea behind the work is that the soft watches are a rejection of the assumption that time is rigid or deterministic. The orange clock at the bottom left is covered in ants as Dali often used these insects in his paintings as a symbol of decay. Another insect present is a fly, sitting on the watch next to the orange one. It appears to be casting a human shadow as the sun hits it.
The Painter’s Studio by Gustave Courbet (1854-1955)
This painting was a work of the leading realism movement leader of 19th century France, Gustave Courbet. He painted The Painter’s Studio in France and the figures in the painting are allegorical representations of various influences on his artistic life. On the left are figures from all levels of society. In the center, Courbet depicted himself working on a landscape painting while being turned away from a nude model who is the first symbol of academic art style, while the second one is the skull resting on a book, depicting the style’s death.
The dynamism of a Dog on a Leash by Giacomo Balla (1912)
Balla was an Italian painter, art teacher, and poet, and was best known as a key figure in Futurism. During World War I, his art studio in Italy became a meeting place for aspiring artists. One of his best-known works shows an almost frame-by-frame view of a woman walking a dachshund on a least on a boulevard. It illustrates his principle of simultaneity, the rendering of motion by simultaneously showing many aspects of a moving object. Balla’s interest in capturing a single moment in a series of planes was inspired by his fascination with chronophotography (a photographic technique from the Victorian era which captures a number of phases of movements).
Guernica by Pablo Picasso (1937)
Picasso, one of the best-known painters is the creator of the most moving and powerful anti-war painting in history. He painted Guernica in Paris as a response to the 1937 bombing of Guernica, a Basque country town in northern Spain that was bombed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The upsetting and startling scene depicts grieving women, fire, a fallen soldier, a bull and a horse, and all the symbols of the terror and death of the war. A hidden symbol is formed as the horse’s nostrils and upper teeth can be seen as a human scull facing left and slightly downward. Another hidden image is of a bull that appears to gore the horse from underneath. The head of the bull is formed mainly by the horse’s front leg which has the knee on the ground. The leg’s knee cap forms the head’s nose, and a horn appears within the horse’s breast.
Number 1 by Jackson Pollock (1949)
As an artist, Pollock was widely noticed for his drip technique of pouring or splashing liquid household paint onto a horizontal surface, enabling him to view and paint his canvasses from all angles. He was an American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. As a personality, he was reclusive and volatile, as he struggled with alcoholism all his life. He passed away at the age of 44 in an alcohol-related car collision and left behind great art as his legacy. Number 1 and other drip paintings made Pollock the poster boy of abstract expressionism.
Great Western Railway by JMW Turner (1844)
J. M. W. Turner was an English Romantic painter, best known for his expressive coloring, landscapes, and often violent marine paintings. Intensely private, eccentric, and reclusive, he was a controversial figure throughout his career. After the death of his father, he became more pessimistic, his outlook deteriorated, and his gallery fell into disrepair and neglect, but his art intensified. This painting gives the impression of great speed in a static painting. He often created an atmospheric tonality in his creations by spreading the paint in short, broad brushstrokes from a filthy palette onto the canvas. To illustrate the rain, he dabbed dirty putty on the canvas with a trowel, whereas the sunshine scintillates out of thick chunks of chrome yellow.
Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe by Édouard Manet (1863)
Manet, a French painter, and a pivotal figure in the transition from realism to impressionism depicted a nude and a scantly dressed female bather on a picnic with two fully dressed men. The female nude is thought to be Victorine Meurent, the woman who became the artist’s favorite and frequently modeled for him. The male figure on the right was based on a combination of his two brothers, Eugene, and Gustave Manet, while the other man is his brother-in-law, a sculptor Leenfhof.
The Green Stripe by Henri Matisse (1905)
Henri Matisse was a French artist who is like Picasso, regarded as one of the artists who helped define the revolutionary developments in the visual arts throughout the opening decades of the 20th century. The painting of this leading figure in modern art, depicts the artist’s wife, Amelie. The green stripe down the center of her face acts as an artificial shadow line and divides the face in the conventional portraiture style, giving it a dark and a light side.
Black Square by Kazimir Malevich (1915)
Malevich was a Russian avant-garde painter, born in Kyiv to a Polish family. He worked in a variety of styles, assimilating the movements of impressionism, symbolism, fauvism, and cubism. This painting is frequently invoked by critics, historians, and artists as the “zero point of painting” referring to the painting’s historical significance. It is referred to as one of the seminal works of modern and abstract art in the Western painterly tradition generally.
The Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso (1921)
This painting is measuring more than 2 meters wide and high and was done by Pablo Picasso. A painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. It is painted in the style of Synthetic Cubism and is giving the appearance of cut paper. The figure on the left is a clarinet player, in the middle is the guitar player and on the right is a singer, holding sheets of music. They are dressed as familiar figures: Pierrot, wearing a white and blue suit, Harlequin, in a diamond-pattern costume, and a friar in a black robe. Depicted in front of Pierrot stands a table with several objects, including a pipe, while beneath him is a dog, whose tail peeps out behind the musician’s legs.
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