Saturday, November 25, 2017

Dadaism of Hannah Höch - Part I
Works on Paper

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Dadaism (Dada) is a post World War I style, stressing accidental images and events, the logic of the absurdity, irrationality in art, literature and morality - it is related to Surrealism (see Glossary of Art, Artists, Art Motifs and Art Movements).

Hannah Höch was a German Dada artist. She is best known for her work of the Weimar period, when she was one of the originators of photomontage and collage. The only woman amongst the Berlin Dadaists, her collages and photomontages at a very early stage established a large variety of works on paper that were consistent in style and concept. What is not appreciated is how these media informed and inspired her paintings.

Her father, Johanne Höch, was born on 1st November 1889, the eldest of five brothers and sisters in Gotha, Germany. He was a senior employee in an insurance company.

Hannah Höch (ca. 1905)[1].

She began her art's training in 1912 at the School of Applied Arts in Berlin Charlottenburg under Harold Bengen, who took the class on glass design.

Hannah Höch (on the left, number 15) with Bengen's class at Art School (1912)[1].

The outbreak of World War I collapsed Hannah's previously well-tempered image of the world and made her acutely aware of political events and trends. In Gotha she served for a short time with the Red Cross and other charitable organizations. After the war she returned to Berlin and continued studying at the State Museum of Applied Arts in Emil Orlik's drawing class. The Director of the School was the architect Bruno Paul, who also used to draw for the satirical periodical - Simplicissimus.

It was in 1915 when her friendship with Raoul Hausmann (1886 - 1971) began. He was a Viennese artist, who had been living in Berlin since 1901. They were both enthralled with almost everything that Herwarth Walden showed in his gallery - 'Der Sturm' (The Storm). Up to 1916 Hausmann was a figurative Expressionist. However, since 1915 both Hausmann and Höch had been creating abstract watercolours and drawings.

Raoul Hausmann (1915)[1].

In 1916 Hannah was learning woodcut at the Museum of Applied Arts under Oskar Bangemann and in this year she made her first abstract collage ('White Cloud') from the stencils that are used in woodcut. In 1917 the writer and psycho-analyst Richard Huelsenbeck (1892-1974) who had studied medicine in Paris and Berlin, arrived in Berlin January 1917 from Zurich. Huelsenbeck observed that Expressionism was beginning to be fashionable, since all its energies were directed to furthering the retreat and exhaustion of the German spirit.

On 23rd of February 1918 Huelsenbeck gave the first Dada speech in Germany in the New Secession Room, which art dealer J.B. Neumann (1187-1961) made available. Although Hannah Höch did not participate directly in many Dada activities since her personal relation to the Berlin Dadaist was limited by her interaction with Hausmann, nevertheless she was one of the main protagonists of Dada in Berlin; it was Hausmann and her who invented photomontage. She herself viewed it as the most original and important contributions of the Berlin Dadaists. She recalled, 'I knew the technique as a child. There were, for instance, joke postcards with funny situations created by sticking different bits of photographs together. Some showed a bride and bridegroom confronted with problems and joys of their future married life and so on...We regarded ourselves as engineers, we maintained that we were building things, we said we put the work together like fitters'.

In 1919 the first Berlin Dada exhibition was held in J.B. Neumann's "Graphisches Kabinett" (Graphical Cabinet). The group who exhibited were: Hausmann, Höch, Grosz, Baader, Walter Mehring, Golychev, Stuckenberg and Deetjen. In June of that year the first issue of the periodical 'Der Dada' edited by Hausmann and Baader appeared. The Dada movement was well underway.

Dadaism of Hannah Höch

Heads of State (1918-20)[1].
Size: 16.2 x 23.3 cm.

Money (ca. 1922)[1].
Size: 10 x 17.5 cm.

The Coquette 1 (1923-25)[1].
Size: 18.5 x 20.5 cm.

Half-Caste (1924)[1].
Size: 11 x 8.2 cm.

Balance (1925)[1].
Size: 30.5 x 20.3 cm.

Children (1925)[1].
Size: 19.5 x 13.3 cm.

Children (1925)[1].
Size: 19.5 x 13.3 cm.

Love (ca. 1926)[1].
Size: 13 x 27 cm.

English Dancer (1928)[1].
Size: 23.7 x 18 cm.

The Works (ca. 1930)[1].
Size: 25.2 x 35.5 cm.

[1] Götz Adriani, Hannah Höch, Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, autors and VG Bild-Kunst (1985).

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