Extensive Archive of Avant-Garde & Modernist Magazines (1890–1939) Now Available Online


Hav­ing once been involved in the found­ing of an arts mag­a­zine, I have expe­ri­enced inti­mate­ly the ways in which such an endeav­or can depend upon a com­mu­ni­ty of equals pool­ing a diver­si­ty of skills. The process can be painful: egos com­pete, cer­tain ele­ments seek to dom­i­nate, but the suc­cess­ful prod­uct of such a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort will rep­re­sent a liv­ing com­mu­ni­ty of artists, writ­ers, edi­tors, and oth­er mas­ters of tech­nique who sub­or­di­nate their indi­vid­ual wills, tem­porar­i­ly, to the will of a col­lec­tive, cre­at­ing new gestalt iden­ti­ties from con­cep­tu­al atoms. As Mono­skop—“a wiki for col­lab­o­ra­tive stud­ies of art, media and the humanities”—points out, “the whole” of an arts mag­a­zine, “could become greater than the sum of its parts.” Often when this hap­pens, a pub­li­ca­tion can serve as the plat­form or nucle­us of an entire­ly new move­ment.

Mono­skop main­tains a dig­i­tal archive of print­ed avant-garde and mod­ernist mag­a­zines dat­ing from the late-19th cen­tu­ry to the late 1930s, pub­lished in locales from Arad to Bucharest, Copen­hagen to War­saw, in addi­tion to the expect­ed New York and Paris. From the lat­ter city comes the 1924 first issue of Sur­re­al­isme at the top of the post.


From the much small­er city of Arad in Roma­nia comes the March, 1925 issue 1 of Periszkóp above, pub­lished in Hun­gar­i­an and fea­tur­ing works by Picas­so, Marc Cha­gall, and many less­er-known East­ern Euro­pean artists. Just below, see anoth­er Paris pub­li­ca­tion: the first, 1929 issue of Doc­u­ments, a sur­re­al­ist jour­nal edit­ed by Georges Bataille and fea­tur­ing such lumi­nar­ies as Cuban nov­el­ist Ale­jo Car­pen­tier and artists Georges Braque, Gior­gio De Chiri­co, Sal­vador Dali, Mar­cel Duchamp, Paul Klee, Joan Miro, and Pablo Picas­so. Fur­ther down, see the first, 1926, issue of the Bauhaus jour­nal, vehi­cle of the famous arts move­ment found­ed by Wal­ter Gropius in 1919.


The vari­ety of mod­ernist and avant garde pub­li­ca­tions archived at Mono­skop “pro­vide us with a his­tor­i­cal record of sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions of artists and writ­ers.” They also “remind us that our lens­es mat­ter.” In an age of “the relent­less lin­ear­i­ty of dig­i­tal bits and the UX of the glow­ing screen” we tend to lose sight of such crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant mat­ters as design, typog­ra­phy, lay­out, writ­ing, and the “tech­niques of print­ing and mechan­i­cal repro­duc­tion.” Any­one can build a web­site, fill it with “con­tent,” and prop­a­gate it glob­al­ly, giv­ing lit­tle or no thought to aes­thet­ic choic­es and edi­to­r­i­al fram­ing. But the mag­a­zines rep­re­sent­ed in Monoskop’s archive are spe­cial­ized cre­ations, the prod­ucts of very delib­er­ate choic­es made by groups of high­ly skilled indi­vid­u­als with very spe­cif­ic aes­thet­ic agen­das.


A major­i­ty of the pub­li­ca­tions rep­re­sent­ed come from the explo­sive peri­od of mod­ernist exper­i­men­ta­tion between the wars, but sev­er­al, like the jour­nal Rhythm: Art Music Lit­er­a­ture—first pub­lished in 1911—offer glimpses of the ear­ly stir­rings of mod­ernist inno­va­tion in the Anglo­phone world. Oth­ers like the 1890–93 Parisian Entre­tiens poli­tiques et lit­téraires show­case the work of pio­neer­ing ear­ly French mod­ernist fore­bears like Jules Laforgue (a great influ­ence upon T.S. Eliot) and also André Gide and Stéphane Mal­lar­mé. Some of the pub­li­ca­tions here are already famous, like The Lit­tle Review, many much less­er-known. Most pub­lished only a hand­ful of issues.


With a few exceptions—such as the 1923 Japan­ese pub­li­ca­tion MAVO shown above—almost all of the jour­nals rep­re­sent­ed at Monoskop’s archive hail from East­ern and West­ern Europe and the U.S.. While “only a few jour­nals had any sig­nif­i­cant impact out­side the avant-garde cir­cles in their time,” the rip­ples of that impact have spread out­ward to encom­pass the art and design worlds that sur­round us today. These exam­ples of the lit­er­ary and design cul­ture of ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry mod­ernist mag­a­zines, like those of late 20th cen­tu­ry post­mod­ern ‘zines, pro­vide us with a dis­til­la­tion of minor move­ments that came to have major sig­nif­i­cance in decades hence.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The ABCs of Dada Explains the Anar­chic, Irra­tional “Anti-Art” Move­ment of Dadaism

The Pulp Fic­tion Archive: The Cheap, Thrilling Sto­ries That Enter­tained a Gen­er­a­tion of Read­ers (1896–1946)

William S. Burrough’s Avant-Garde Movie ‘The Cut Ups’ (1966)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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