The avant-garde’s visual arts in the context of Santayana’s idea of vital liberty
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In the present paper, the author looks at the political dimension of some trends in the visual arts within twentieth-century avant-garde groups (cubism, expressionism, fauvism, Dada, abstractionism, surrealism) through George Santayana’s idea of vital liberty. Santayana accused the avant-gardists of social and political escapism, and of becoming unintentionally involved in secondary issues. In his view, the emphasis they placed on the medium (or diverse media) and on treating it as an aim in itself, not, as it should be, as a transmitter through which a stimulating relationship with the environment can be had, was accompanied by a focus on fragments of life and on parts of existence, and, on the other hand, by a de facto rejection of ontology and cosmology as being crucial to understanding life and the place of human beings in the universe. The avant-gardists became involved in political life by responding excessively to the events of the time, instead of to the everlasting problems that are the human lot.
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