Formalism is the main artistic method of avant-garde art

Kazimir Malevich – malevich apple blossoms dated-1904
Kazimir Malevich – malevich apple blossoms dated-1904

Formalism is a system of views in art, in which its form serves as the basis for determining the artistic value of a work. Formalism denies the importance of the ideological content of the created masterpiece, as well as its dependence on the circumstances of the author’s life and the environment.

In art Formalism is not a style or genre, but a special artistic method of analyzing the visual and material aspects of the creation of works of art by the author. He focuses on the main elements of the composition (color, lines, texture) and attaches great importance to the aesthetics of form, even to the detriment of content.

1907 Demoiselle dAvinyв, Pablo Picasso
1907 Demoiselle dAvinyв, Pablo Picasso

Features of formalism Formalism is based on the controversial idea that the artist’s activities are beyond the control of reason. According to this system of views, true art should not be influenced by external social, historical and social factors. On the contrary, it opposes the surrounding reality and thereby forms genuine aesthetic values.

Formalism exists not only in the visual arts, but also in literature. This artistic method has many supporters, who traditionally unite in unions of like-minded people and actively defend their views in disputes with opponents.

Adherents of this artistic method are most often apologists for various areas of avant-garde art, including:

  • dadaism;
  • abstract art;
  • futurism;
  • constructivism;
  • cubism.

There are many well-known names among the huge number of followers of the idea of ​​the absolute importance of the role of form in art.

Marc CHAGALL Bouquet
Marc CHAGALL Bouquet

The most famous masters of formalism are:

  1. Henri Matisse;
  2. Pablo Picasso
  3. Marc Chagall;
  4. Kazimir Malevich;
  5. Marcel Duchamp;
  6. Max Ernst.
Formalism. Max Ernst. The painting Wavering woman, 1923
Max Ernst. The painting Wavering woman, 1923

History of formalism

The history of formalism is inextricably linked with the revolutionary ideas of avant-garde art of the early twentieth century, but its roots should be sought in the writings of Immanuel Kant. At the end of the 18th century, the brilliant German philosopher put forward a theory of disinterest in the interest of aesthetic perception, which was much ahead of its time.

On the basis of Kant’s ideas, his compatriot Konrad Fiedler at the beginning of the twentieth century, together with a group of like-minded people, created the theory of pure visuality. In it, he argued that the artistic form of a work is the most important way to create an ideal reality in art. This theory has caused fierce controversy not only in philosophical circles, but also among writers and artists.

The avant-garde supporters of the new theory had a negative attitude towards the traditional values ​​of classical fine art. They recognized the novelty of the form and the right to its existence independent of the content as the most important aesthetic criterion of their work.

Formalism. Purple robe, Henri Matisse
Purple robe, Henri Matisse
The artists, inspired by the ideas of formalism, became real revolutionaries of art.

They opposed the ossified academism of painting and sculpture, offered the viewer innovative works from an aesthetic point of view. This led to the emergence of many different disparate trends, which to one degree or another can be attributed to the avant-garde art.

In Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century, the attitude towards formalism was ambiguous. New ideas found wide support among young people, while they were absolutely rejected by the conservative majority. However, after the bloody revolutionary events, a cardinal shift took place in the consciousness of a huge number of people and unique conditions for the development of all forms of avant-garde art emerged.

Formalism. Young Man and Girl in Spring, Marcel Duchamp
Young Man and Girl in Spring, Marcel Duchamp

But the leadership of the Soviet Union, headed by Stalin, very quickly came to the conclusion that the artistic methods of perception of all citizens, without exception, should be determined by the state. Already at the beginning of the 30s of the last century, a real war was declared to avant-gardeism, and socialist realism was proclaimed the only correct direction.

At the same time, the term formalism in the USSR acquired a negative connotation. Numerous figures of Soviet culture fiercely branded the slightest manifestation of the so-called formal bourgeois art on the pages of newspapers. As a result, avant-gardism went deep underground, where it remained for many years until the beginning of perestroika.

The ideas of formalism in the rest of the world were in demand not only during the period of immense popularity of avant-garde art, but also showed themselves later, after the end of World War II. The paramount importance of form in their work was recognized by many supporters of pop art, op art, tachism and kinetic art. And today, formalism has its followers in painting, sculpture and literature.

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