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The Golden Age of Russian Impressionism

Hannah Hoch (1889 - 1978)

Hannah Hoch
Hannah Hoch
(1889 - 1978)
      Photomontage: Imagery which combines male and female into one being Art Work
Name: Hannah Hoch
Gender: Female
Place of Birth: Gotha, Germany
Nationality: German
Birth: 1889
Death: 1978
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   Quick Facts
Known For: Photomontage: Imagery which combines male and female into one being
Fine Art Profession(s): Collagist

A Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany is the title of this large-format collage by Hannah Hoch. It is a key work of Berlin Dada and an important early example of photomontage. Its very title is programmatic and, in its provocative and playful wording, is typical of Dada usage. The various components of the collage were cut from newspapers, magazines and photographs.

Besides fragments of words and headlines, machine parts, vehicles and urban views, more than fifty figures can be seen in this complex work, although their heads and bodies seldom match. Among them are such famous personalities as the physicist Albert Einstein, Kaiser Wilhelm II, theatre director Max Reinhardt, actress Asta Nielsen and Lenin as well as a number of representatives of Dada, including Hoch's companion Raoul Hausmann, the painter George Grosz, the brothers John Heartfield and Wieland Herzfelde. At the centre of this chaotic-looking composition, a female dancer gleefully juggles Kathe Kollwitz's head. The other elements of the collage have been combined with the same sense of freedom and playfulness. Hoch has produced a satirical image of the Weimar Republic and its time honoured and (in the eyes of the Dadaists) meaningless traditions that the group pilloried in their work.

This collage was first seen in 1920 at the 'First International Dada Exhibition' in Berlin - alongside waspish posters, works by Grosz, Hausmann, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia as well as a uniformed dummy with a pig's head and other items that were certain to incense the exhibitions bourgeois visitors. As expected, they did: the press reacted violently and the authorities started proceedings against the organizers for ridiculing the army. Comprising 176 works, this exhibition represented both the climax and the quintessence of the Dada movement that had formed in 1916 in Zurich, Paris, New York and Berlin as a reaction to the First World War Together with Hausmann, whom she met in 1915 while studying applied art in Berlin, Hoch was one of the original Dadaists. As she later admitted, however, she sometimes felt like the odd 'man' out in this male-dominated group and practically never appeared on stage at their riotous performances. Showing greater subtlety than the others, she exploited the possibilities of collage, made her famous Dada dolls and applied the new technique of montage to her painting.

The Club Dada began to fragment in the early 1920s. Its leading lights - supreme individualists one and all - fell out with each other and went their separate ways. After numerous trial separations and attempts at reconciliation, Hoch and Hausmann finally realized in 1922 that their relationship was over. From 1926 to 1929, Hoch lived in the Netherlands, where she found a new companion in the avant-garde woman poet Til Brugmann and where she associated with the artists of the De Stijl group. On returning to Germany, she lived through the Nazi era by withdrawing to the leafy Berlin suburb of Heiligensee (where she painted, made collages and tended her overgrown garden). It was not until the end of the 1960s that the work of the aged artist was rediscovered. Although her output was vast and varied, in the eyes of the public Hannah Hoch always remained the Dadaist she had been as a young woman.

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