The Evolution of the European Avant-Garde Art Movement, Through Collectivism and Propagandist Literature

  • Alastair Shuttleworth

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


This study explores the model of the collectivist avant-garde movement in the European visual arts, and its development (as a historically recurring phenomenon) from its earliest significant iterations at the turn of the nineteenth century to the ‘historical avant-garde movements’ of the early twentieth century. Through chronological iterations of this model, I will explore the importance of collectivism, and its increasingly close and complex relationship with ‘propagandist literature’ created to shape and disseminate its revolution in the public consciousness.

Challenging prevailing discourse on avant-gardism as a twentieth century phenomenon, this study identifies its characteristics in movements dating back to the turn of the nineteenth century, taking its lead from recent re-evaluations of Pre-Raphaelitism and Nazarenism as indicative of avant-gardism. Additionally, while collectivism and propagandist literature have often been considered characteristics of the avant-garde art movement, this study explores their relationship in a historical continuum across various movements, in a manner that has not yet been attempted.

Identifying the collectivist avant-garde movement as a group of artists unified in a formal or informal organisation, by a common desire to revitalise art and society through a subversive aesthetic programme, five chronological iterations are discussed between the turn of the nineteenth century and the First World War. These movements are Les Barbus, the Lukasbund, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the Italian Futurists and the Vorticists. In each, first-hand materials (including memoirs, diaries and correspondence) are combined with theoretical and historical studies to explore these movements in a continuum. The study aims to make a valuable contribution to our historical and theoretical understanding of the avant-garde in the European visual arts, its tendency towards collective organisations, and its use of literature to advance its revolution.
Date of Award7 May 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorStephen H Cheeke (Supervisor) & Ulrika Maude (Supervisor)

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