The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

May 31, 2016

May 31, 1978

Hannah Höch (November 1, 1889 to May 31, 1978) was a German artist whose fame derives from her Dadaist works. She was born into an upper middle class family.

By the time, 1920, she wrote (Telegraph citation below,)

.... a deliciously mordant short story ,,,,entitled ‘The Painter’, [wherein] Hannah Hoch portrays a ‘modern’ couple, who embrace the idea of sexual equality, but whose relationship breaks down under the expectation that the man, an artist, should wash the dishes four times in four years — an imposition he regards ‘the enslavement of his spirit.’ ...

she was deeply involved with avante garde circles. "The painter" was Raoul Hausmann.

According to her Britannica article, while engaged in training, Hoch

In 1915 ...met and became romantically involved with Austrian artist Raoul Hausmann, [already married] who in 1918 introduced her to the Berlin Dada circle, a group of artists that included George Grosz, Wieland Herzfelde, and Wieland’s older brother, John Heartfield. Höch began to experiment with nonobjective art—nonrepresentational works that make no reference to the natural world—through painting, but also with collage and photomontage—collages consisting of fragments of imagery found in newspapers and magazines. .... From 1916 to 1926, to support herself and pay for her schooling, Höch worked part-time at Ullstein Verlag, a Berlin magazine-publishing house for which she wrote articles on and designed patterns for “women’s” handicrafts—mainly knitting, crocheting, and embroidery....

Those credited with employing and elevating collage to a fine art, namely Picasso and Georges Braque, had incorporated some photo elements, but Höch and the Dadaists were the first to embrace and develop the photograph as the dominant medium of the montage. Höch and Hausmann cut, overlapped, and juxtaposed (usually) photographic fragments in disorienting but meaningful ways to reflect the confusion and chaos of the postwar era. The Dadaists rejected the modern moral order, the violence of war, and the political constructs that had brought about the war. Their goal was to subvert all convention, including conventional modes of art making such as painting and sculpture. Their use of photomontage, which relied on mass-produced materials and required no academic art training, was a deliberate repudiation of the prevailing German Expressionist aesthetic and was intended as a type of anti-art. Ironically, the movement was quickly and enthusiastically absorbed into the art world and found appreciation among connoisseurs of fine art in the 1920s.

In 1920 the group held the First International Dada Fair, .... Höch was allowed to participate only after Hausmann threatened to withdraw his own work from the exhibition if she was kept out.

[Still] Höch was typically patronized by and kept at the margins of the Berlin group. Consequently, she began to move away from Grosz and Heartfield and the others, including Hausmann, with whom she broke off her relationship in 1922. The Dada group dissolved in 1922 as well. One of Höch’s final Dada works, My House-Sayings (1922), is a subverted version of a traditional German guest book that, instead of bearing good wishes from house guests written upon their departure, is scrawled with sayings by Dadaists and German writers, including Goethe and Nietzsche. For example, one saying by Dada poet Richard Hülsenbeck read: “Death is a thoroughly Dadaist affair.” 

A retrospective article on Hoch in The Telegraph fills out the story.

Hoch’s work was in many ways more original than Hausmann’s, yet she found herself ‘naturally’ falling into the role of supportive helpmate, bolstering his bellicose, yet fragile ego, while he ‘naturally’ took the larger share of the fame. But after two abortions, she wearied of their tempestuous, but inconclusive relationship, and called a halt in 1922. She began a ten year relationship with the female Dutch academic Till Bruggen, moving to Amsterdam in 1926.

With the demise of the Berlin Dada movement, which its leading propagandist Hulsenbeck had declared dead as early as 1920, Hausmann reinvented himself as a society photographer. Visiting him in the late Twenties in Berlin, where he was living in a ménage a trois with his second wife Hedwig and the Russian writer Vera Broido, later the mother of rock journalist Nik Cohn, Hoch pronounced Hausmann ‘boring. All he talks about is the things he can now afford to buy.’

...... But with the rise of the Nazis, those who had espoused ‘cultural Bolshevism’ found themselves under threat. Returning to Berlin in 1936, Hoch found the atmosphere ‘scarcely conducive to any kind of enterprising activity.’ She and her fellow former-Dadaists were blacklisted and watched by the Gestapo.

Hausmann fled to France where he died in relative obscurity in 1971.

She didn’t, however, do so badly. In 1938 she moved from the centre of Berlin to a cottage on the city’s rural outskirts, where she sat out the war and its aftermath, feeling as though she had ‘managed to disappear, as completely as if I had gone underground.’
[During this period she was married to a pianist Kurt Mathies, until their 1944 divorce.]

Forgotten by the art establishment, she continued to develop her work, though by the time Dawn Ades.... met her there in the early Seventies she was ‘as interested in nature as she was in art.’ ‘The house was full of plants,’ Ades recalls. ‘You had to crawl under apple trees to get through the front door. She incorporated leaves and twigs and other organic matter into her collages of the time. She came across as quite a strong character, quietly determined and self-contained. She wasn’t at all well-known at that point, but she didn’t seem bitter. She wasn’t interested in becoming a celebrity.’

Hoch lived on until 1978, in time to see recognition of her contribution to 20th century art in major exhibitions in Paris and Berlin in 1976. Yet she received this belated acclaim with the same equanimity with which she had regarded her earlier neglect and the patronising, even hostile attitudes of her male colleagues.....

Here is a sample of the art of Hannah Hoch.  We found it here .

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