Avant-Garde literally meant the “most forwardly placed troops.” The movement sought to eliminate or at least blur the distinction between art and life often by introducing elements of mass culture. These artists aimed to “make it new” and often represented themselves as alienated from the established order. Avant-garde literature and art challenged societal norms to “shock” the sensibilities of its audience (Childers & Hentzi, p.26 and Abrams, p.110).
Surrealism (also associated with the avant-garde and dadaism) was initiated in particular by André Breton, whose 1924 “Manifesto of Surrealism” defined the movement’s “adherence to the imagination, dreams, the fantastic, and the irrational.” Dada is a nonsense word and the movement, in many ways similar to the trends of avant-garde and surrealism, “emphasized absurdity, reflected a spirit of nihilism, and celebrated the function of chance” (Childers & Hentzi, p. 69). Major figures include André Breton (breh-TAWN), Georges Bataille (beh-TYE), Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp, Richard Huelsenbeck, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp (dew-SHAHN), Man Ray, Raoul Hausmann, Max Ernst and Kurt Schwitters.