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Avant-garde, term referring to those who experiment with new and original art forms. Used originally to describe a military unit that led the rest of the troops, avant-garde was first given its modern meaning by the French socialist Henri de Saint-Simon in 1825. During the 19th century, the avant-garde notion of art as a tool of social reform gave way to the idea of “art for art's sake,” leading to the Dadaist and Surrealist movements of the early 20th century. Important avant-garde artists include U.S. composer John Cage (1912–92) and French painter Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968).

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