‘A group of deranged idiots’ – how the Soviets saw the Avant-Gardists

The Avant-Gardists tells the story of the small group of brilliant, punky outsider artists who, after the Bolshevik coup in 1917, to everyone’s amazement suddenly found themselves holding important posts in government (as if Sid Vicious were made minister of education). They were soon demoted, and by the end of the 1920s persecuted or driven abroad. Yet news of their breathtaking originality spread internationally, playing an important role in transforming not only our understanding of art, but the aesthetics of modern life, from buildings to household objects, textiles to the printed word. Sjeng Scheijen has written an exhilarating history of the movement, illuminated by new research and insights, and with

Kandinsky is the star of Tate’s expressionist show

‘We invented the name Blaue Reiter whilst sitting around a coffee table in Marc’s garden at Sindelsdorf… we both loved blue, Marc liked horses and I liked riders, so the name came of its own accord.’ Christened so casually by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc in 1911, the Blue Rider was always more of an idea than an art society, but the Tate Modern’s new exhibition – the first in the UK since 1960 – makes it sound more contemporary by describing it as a transnational collective. In practice, as Kandinsky’s partner Gabriele Münter remembered, it was ‘only a group of friends who shared a common passion for painting as

The first patrons of Modernism deserve much sympathy and respect

If Modernism is a jungle, how do you navigate a path through its thickets? Some explorers — Peter Gay and Christopher Butler among them — have been fool-hardy enough to attempt an overall map, identifying factors common to a half century of music, art and literature. But the borders remain disputed and light cast on one area only leaves another consigned to the shadows. Philip Hook, however, has been less ambitious, confining himself to one patch of special interest: the painting and sculpture of the decade preceding the first world war. Although this may sound like familiar territory, it’s widely regarded, in Hook’s words, as ‘quite possibly the most important