Hannah Höch documented Weimar Germany’s political and social turmoil through her paintings, drawings, prints, and, most notably, her photomontages. With Raoul Hausmann, George Grosz, Richard Huelsenbeck and others, Höch founded Berlin Dada, an international avant-garde cultural movement that developed in reaction to the horrors of World War I and brazenly rejected traditional art forms.
Höch was born in Gotha, Germany and moved to Berlin in 1912 to study calligraphy, embroidery, wallpaper design and graphic arts. Her specialty was needlework designs and techniques, a talent sharpened by her part-time job creating patterns and lace tablecloth designs for Ullstein Verlag, Weimar Germany’s largest publishing empire. With access to the company’s newly published photo-illustrated magazines, Höch created some of her early montages. Höch met Raoul Hausmann in 1915 and the two artists, who had a turbulent love affair, are often credited for “inventing” photomontage. Using camera-made images, Höch and other Dadaists pieced together works with satirical and ironic messages about the chaotic sociopolitical state in Germany. Höch showed nine works at the infamous First International Dada Fair in 1920 including Cut With the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany
While the Dadaists were self-proclaimed radical thinkers who championed women’s rights, Höch, the only female Berlin Dadaist, was marginalized for her independent spirit, masculine dress, and bisexuality. Höch’s works, however, were more personal than the work of her male counterparts. They were more poetic and whimsical and less propagandistic and biting. Her photomontages often confront gender issues, championing the “New Woman” who is empowered by the vote, sexually emancipated, and financially liberated.
In 1922, Höch ended her relationship with Hausmann and Berlin Dada, although she continued to maintain a close friendship with Hanover Dadaist Kurt Schwitters. Höch continued to create and exhibit her works until the mid-1930s when the Nazi regime demanded the end of the “degenerate” Dada movement. While her compatriots fled the country, Höch, unwilling to part with her collection of Dada art and memorabilia, chose inner-exile, isolating herself in a house in a secluded area in north-west Berlin. Although she did not speak to anyone for months at a time and permitted few visitors, Höch continued to paint and make art until the end of the life, leaving the legacy of her independent and creative spirit.
School of Fine Art, Charlottenburg, Germany (ca. 1916)
Staatliche Lehranstalt des Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin, Germany (1915)
Kunstgewebeschule, Berlin, Germany (1912-1914)
friend of Kurt Schwitters
friend of Jean Arp
friend of George Grosz
friend of Richard Huelsenbeck
partner of Raoul Hausmann
student of Emil Orlick
student of Harold Bengen
influenced Barbara Kruger
First International Dada Fair, Graphischen Kabinett of I.B. Neumann, Berlin, Germany (1920)