Download Influential Avant-Garde Magazines from the Early 20th Century: Dadaism, Surrealism, Futurism & More

“I’m tired of pol­i­tics, I just want to talk about my art,” I some­times hear artists—and musi­cians, actors, writ­ers, etc.—say. And I some­times see their fans say, “you should shut up about pol­i­tics and just talk about your art.” Giv­en the cur­rent onslaught of polit­i­cal news, com­men­tary, scan­dal, and alarm, these are both under­stand­able sen­ti­ments. But any­one who thinks that art and pol­i­tics once occu­pied sep­a­rate spheres har­bors a his­tor­i­cal­ly naïve belief. The arts have always been polit­i­cal, and all the more so dur­ing times of high dra­ma and ten­sion like the one we live in now. We can look, for exam­ple, to John Milton’s Par­adise Lost, Jacques-Louis David’s Death of Marat, or Pablo Picasso’s Guer­ni­ca, just to men­tion three par­tic­u­lar­ly strik­ing his­tor­i­cal exam­ples.

The polit­i­cal acts of avant-garde artists like Picas­so in the 20th cen­tu­ry were as much rev­o­lu­tions in form as in con­tent, and we begin to see the most rad­i­cal state­ments emerge in the teens and twen­ties with Dada, Sur­re­al­ism, and oth­er mod­ernisms: some­times explic­it­ly polit­i­cal in their orientation—spanning the gamut from anar­chism to fascism—sometimes more sub­tly par­ti­san.

This peri­od was also, per­haps not coin­ci­den­tal­ly, the Gold­en Age of the arts jour­nal, when every move­ment, cir­cle, and splin­ter group in Europe and the U.S. had its own pub­li­ca­tion. For many years now, Prince­ton University’s Blue Moun­tain Project, a joint effort from “schol­ars, librar­i­ans, cura­tors, and dig­i­tal human­i­ties researchers,” has archived com­plete issues of sev­er­al such jour­nals, and we’ve fea­tured a cou­ple notable exam­ples in pre­vi­ous posts.

Now we direct your atten­tion to the full online library, where you’ll find issues of Poe­sia (top), pub­lished by F.T. Marinet­ti between 1905 and 1920. This mag­a­zine rep­re­sents “the tran­si­tion from Italy’s engage­ment with an inter­na­tion­al Sym­bol­ist move­ment to an increas­ing­ly nation­al­ist Futur­ism” and fea­tures the work of Marinet­ti, Alfred Jar­ry, W.B. Yeats, Pao­lo Buzzi, Emilio Notte, and James Joyce. Below Poe­sia, from the oth­er side of the spec­trum, we see the cov­er of a 1920 issue of Action, a “lit­er­ary and artis­tic mag­a­zine asso­ci­at­ed with Indi­vid­u­al­ist Anar­chism,” and fea­tur­ing work from writ­ers like André Mal­raux, Antonin Artaud, and Paul Élu­ard, and art­work from Demetrios Gala­nis and Robert Morti­er, to name just a few.

Not every avant-garde arts jour­nal had a clear ide­o­log­i­cal mis­sion, but they all rep­re­sent­ed aes­thet­ic pro­grams that strong­ly react­ed against the sta­tus quo. The artists of the so-called Vien­na Seces­sion broke away from Asso­ci­a­tion of Aus­tri­an Artists to protest its con­ser­vatism. Their jour­nal, Ver Sacrum, fur­ther up, joined the flow­ing, intri­cate, and pas­sion­ate designs of Art Nou­veau and Ger­man Jugend­stil artists, who cre­at­ed the look of the Weimar Repub­lic and the Jazz Age. Con­trib­u­tors includ­ed Gus­tav Klimt, Kolo­man Moser, and Josef Hoff­mann.

Some­times avant-garde jour­nals reflect­ed polit­i­cal con­flicts between war­ring fac­tions of artists, as in the exam­ple of Le coeur à barbe: jour­nal trans­par­ent, “pro­duced by Tris­tan Tzara as a response to the attacks on him by Fran­cis Picabia and André Bre­ton about the future of the Dada move­ment.” Oth­er pub­li­ca­tions aimed to expand the bound­aries of nation­al cul­ture, as with Broom, above, a “self-pro­claimed inter­na­tion­al mag­a­zine of arts and lit­er­a­ture… a sump­tu­ous jour­nal that intro­duced Amer­i­can audi­ences to the Euro­pean avant-garde.” What­ev­er their stat­ed mis­sion and implic­it or explic­it slant, it’s fair to say that the rad­i­cal art pub­lished in avant-garde jour­nals between the turn of the cen­tu­ry and the end of the 1920s did every­thing but stand on the side­lines.

You can view … and down­load … more avant-garde mag­a­zines at Prince­ton’s Blue Moun­tain Project.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load All 8 Issues of Dada, the Arts Jour­nal That Pub­li­cized the Avant-Garde Move­ment a Cen­tu­ry Ago (1917–21)

Down­load Alfred Stieglitz’s Pro­to-Dada Art Jour­nal, 291, The First Art Mag­a­zine That Was Itself a Work of Art (1916)

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

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

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