Ilustrated History of DADA

Translation from the Spanish: Yolanda Pérez Herreras


[◄] DADA

New York

Apartment of the Arensberg (1915-1917)
On 15th June 1915, Duchamp embarked on the Rochambeau to New York. Duchamp was preceded by the fame and scandal of the 1913 Armory Show. He settled in the Arensberg apartment, which became the Dada centre in New York with Duchamp as the high priest. Soon after appeared Picabia’s friends from Barcelona; Cravan, Gleizes and others. During these years, the Arensberg apartment served, almost every night, as a meeting place for artists, intellectuals and writers; from left to right: Second row standing: Charles Demuth, Pitts Sanborn and to his right Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Second row seated from left to right: Edgard Varèse, Beatrice Wood, William Carlos Williams, Albert Gleizes, Elmer Ernst Southard, Francis Picabia, Charles Sheeler. Behind at the back: Walter Conrad Arensberg and Marcel Duchamp. Group on the right: Morton Schamberg, Wallace Stevens, Joseph Stella, Carl Van Vechten, Arthur Cravan with Mina Loy, Henri-Pierre Roché and Mary Louise Arensberg.

Unlikely Dada exhibition in New York, 1917
From left to right: Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (with the piece God on top of the table on the left in the background and Limbswish in the foreground on the right of the image). Man Ray (Involute, collage on the left wall and Boardwalk, assemblage right wall). Jane Heap, co-editor of The Little Review. Marcel Duchamp (Fountain on the table on the right)

Walter Conrad Arensberg and his wife Louise Stevens Arensberg visit the home of Frederick C. Torrey in California to see up close the Nu descendant un escalier de Duchamp.
Torrey bought the painting during the exhibition at Armory Show in New York to Walter Pach, one of the organizers of the exhibition in 1913. In 1919 Torrey sold the painting to the Arensberg through Pach.

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven in the Greenwich Village of New York, 1917
She does not carry Duchamp's Fountain in her left hand, because Duchamp's piece was newly bought, clean and new. And Elsa collected everything from the garbage, she would have presented an old urinal, used and dirty, and possibly on a wooden pedestal.

The Hague

6th February 1916 (the morning after the first Voltaire Cabaret in Zurich) the first meeting between Theo van Doesburg and Mondrian takes place. Theo had already contacted Mondrian in October 1915, and he had sent him a photograph of a drawing of the facade of the Domburg church (in the background), van Doesburg made a similar drawing with the church of Utrech (which carry in his hand). In October 1917 they would found the magazine De Stijl.


1919-1920 Dada Group of Cologne
Mainly formed by Max Ernst and Johannes Baargeld, they had some travelling companions in its beginnings.
From left to right: Max Ernst holding a copy of Die Schammade in his hand, in the background Heinrich Hoerle paints a portrait of his wife Angelika (both editors of Der Ventilator on the table, they left the Dada group and created the group Stupid). Sitting the painter Otto Freundlich, standing and behind, Johannes Baargeld, and to the right in the background Hans Arp who arrived in Cologne in February 1920.


Erwin Blumenfeld and Paul Citroen, Dada self-portraits. Chaplinist Dada cell in Amsterdam, 1922
Citroen wrote in the Dada Almanac that his country, Holland, (although both were originally from Berlin), was the least receptive of the world to Dada, and that the few local Dadaists had to console themselves by eating cheese and watching Chaplin films.
On the wall collages by Blumenfeld on the left, and three in the centre and right by Citroen.


At the beginning of 1917 Kurt Schwitters was in his expressionist period. In March he was called by the army, he was almost 30 years old and was assigned to an office job in the 73rd Hannover Regiment, but after three months the army dismissed him, declaring him totally useless, unfit, and insane, perhaps due to his epileptic attacks. But they did not ignore him completely, he was assigned a job as a mechanical drafter in the Wülfel steel industry. He painted some portraits of his wife Helma and among other paintings he exhibited them in the Kestner Society of Hannover in the month of May.

Berlin, June 1918, Kurt Schwitters and Herwarth Walden
Kurt Schwitters participated for the first time in the Der Sturm Gallery of Herwarth Walden in Berlin in June 1918 at the 64th Exhibition since its foundation in 1912, together with Albert Bloch (American member of the Der Blaue Reiter group), Emmy Klinker (Bloch student) ) and Elisabeth Niemann.
Walden welcomed many women painters when he opened the gallery in 1912, he went to Paris and brought works by Sonia Delaunay and Natalia Goncharova.
Pictures from left to right: Summer Night and The Green Domino by Albert Bloch, Zeichnung A 3, A2 Hansi and Merzbild by Kurt Schwitters and to the right Interieur by Emmy Klinker.

Dada trip to Prague, September 1921
Raoul Hausmann and Kurt Schwitters made a trip to Prague with a program announced as "Anti-Dada-Merz", where they recited their phonetic poems. They were accompanied by Hannah Höch and Helma Schwitters.
Schwitters insisted on travelling with fourth-class tickets, on cheap local trains that stopped at all stations.
On the return trip, at one of the stops, Höch and Hausmann went to find accommodation. When they returned to the station, they found Schwitters in a squatting position under a lamppost, finishing a collage with elements gathered on the platform among the dirt.
From left to right: Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch, Kurt Schwitters and behind Helma Schwitters.

Visit to the Merwitz de Schwitters, Hannover, 1922
From left to right: Lissitzky, Theo van Doesburg, Hans Arp, Nelly van Doesburg, Ernst, Helma and Kurt Schwitters

Prior to the Dada Soirée in The Hague, 10th January 1923
Articulated doll and Vilmos Huszár, in the audience Theo van Doesburg and Kurt Schwitters
Invited by Doesburg, Schwitters was encouraged to tour around the Netherlands. His first performance was in The Hague, followed by Utrech and other cities to finish in Amsterdam. Doesburg delivered a lecture on Dada; Schwitters, among other things like how to bark from the stalls, recited his phonetic poems and recite of a pull the poem Anna Blume in German, French and English, these multilingual recitals had the accompaniment of an articulated doll that Huszár handled

Schwitters reciting the Ursonate at the home of Mrs. Kiepenheuer, in Potsdam, 1925
Hans Richter tells that in the house of Mrs. Kiepenheuer the "posh people" had been invited; retired generals, old Prussian empire grandstanders and ladies of high society. The consternation was total when hearing the first times of the sonata, but the respect that inspired the hostess stopped the protests, but that repressed impulse did not do more than to accumulate the tension. In the end, the laughter broke out and it was an orgy of hilarity.

Kurt Schwitters at the Café Les Deux Magots, Paris, April 1927
Schwitters performed the Ursonate at the Le Sacre du Printemps Gallery, at some point he made a small performance at the Café Les Deux Magots for the Dada group in Paris that caused a great sensation by breaking a plate, and after a frantic ovation, he exclaimed contritely: " It's an obligato!”, It's in the script!. The public asked for an encore and Schwitters broke another and another, up to six more plates. Tzara literally had to pay for the broken dishes.
At that time, Nelly and Theo van Doesburg were in Paris, we see them in the left part of the photo, next to Schwitters. At the bottom table Tristan Tzara, who will have to pay for the broken plates, André Breton and Philippe Soupault, behind in the distance Jean Cocteau and to the right; Michel Seuphor, Enrico Pranpolini and Paul Dermée, who published the Ursonate of Schwitters in his magazine Documents internationaux de l'Esprit nouveau nº 1

Merzbau, Hannover, 1929
Although Katherine Dreier visited Schwitters several times a few years before, on this trip she accompanied Marcel Duchamp.


Berlin, January 1918
When in July 1916 the Cabaret Voltaire was closed in Zurich, Richard Huelsenbeck returned to Berlin. Although it was still in war, the spirits had completely changed, the warlike and patriotic ardour had given way to hunger and cold, food and coal were scarce for heating. The winter of 1916-1917 was one of the coldest, known as the Turnip winter, with temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius below zero. Huelsenbeck began to frequent the Cafe des Westens, refuge of the Expressionists, where he found the brothers Herzfelde and Grosz; he published in their magazine Neue Jugend (the new youth) the article "The New Man", which title served both for the extreme right and the extreme left, being perfect to reactivate Dadaism in Germany. Dada premiered in Berlin on 22nd January 1918, a literary evening in the library-art gallery of Israel Ber Neumann; there, he introduced himself as official delegate of Dada and explained what Cabaret Voltaire was. Huelsenbeck and George Grosz were responsible for provoking the audience with some insolence. On 12th April, the official Dadaist evening was organized with the reading of manifestos. Although Huelsenbeck discreetly retired to keep on with his medical studies, it was a pair of trios who maintained the Dada movement in Berlin in the coming years. On the one hand, the Editorial Malik group with Grosz included and on the other, Hausmann and Baader who knew each other for many years and Hannah Höch.
Cabinet of the library-Gallery of I.B. Neumann, the pictures on the wall are by Munch, Roualt, Klee, and Beckmann. Richard Huelsenbeck, and George Grosz disguised as death.

With a tartana cart and an orchestra of musicians with a hat Dada from Berlin sells the magazine "To each one their own soccer ball"
From left to right: Richard Huelsenbeck, John Heartfield, Wieland Herzfelde and George Grosz, waiting for Salomón Friedlaender (Mynona), Erwin Picastor, Karl Nierendorf, Walter Mehring and the music band with a hat.
While Baader and Hausmann organize the Berlin Dada Club and direct the latest issues of the magazine "Freie Strasse", which published its tenth issue in December 1918. The circle around the Malik publishing house founded by the Herzfelde brothers (Wieland and Helmut - John Heartfield-) publishes the satirical magazine "Die Pleite". When in February 1919 it is forbidden by its virulent attacks against the social democratic government, they decide to publish another even more provocative magazine, the satirical magazine "Jedermann sein eigener Fussball", (To each their own soccer ball). The magazine had four pages and contained a total of eight photographs, including two photomontages by John Heartfield; on the cover appears the photomontage by Heartfield with the title "Wer ist der Schönste?" (Who is the most handsome?), a supposed contest of beauty among the members of the Government, whose image is displayed in a fan; it also appear six drawings by George Grosz. The first and only issue of the magazine was published on 15th February 1919, which, in a great publicity stunt, managed to sell it in the street avoiding censorship at that time. In a modest version of Marinetti's drive through Berlin launching leaflets with futuristic manifestos in 1912, the Dadaists organize a procession around a tartan cart, with the editors selling the magazine on foot, accompanied by a wind orchestra dressed in a suit and top hat. In its pages is "The Coitus in Dreimäderlhaus" by Walter Mehring, Dreimäderlhaus was a popular operetta at the time. The magazine is one of the most politically open of those created by Dadaists. It is clearly influenced by the fact that, a few weeks before its publication, the rebellion of the Berlin Communists had been repressed, and Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg executed.
The magazine is banned for its support to the Bavarian revolution and some of the editors are prosecuted judicially (the Spartacist revolution has just been stifled by the most brutal way and the social democratic government suppresses freedom of expression).

A cut and paste afternoon at the Berlin Dada Club, 1919
It is not clear who started. John Heartfield and George Grosz started doing photomontages as soon as they met. Hannah Höch and Raoul Hausmann also joined up. Some artists, temporarily Dadaist, like Erwin Blumenfeld, also joined to the cut and paste and the American journalist Ben Hecht, chronicler of the Berlin Dada, attends this meeting as witness.
On the left, lying on the sofa Erwin Blumenfeld, in the center, in a small chair, George Grosz, behind the table, seated, Raoul Hausmann and John Heartfield, and standing behind them Ben Hecht and Hannah Höch.

From left to right: George Grosz, John Heartfield and Oskar Kokoschka (holding the Rubens painting)
In the spring of 1920 in one of the clashes between the Spartacist League (Marxist) and the Freikorps (right-wing paramilitaries) a stray bullet damaged Rubens's painting "Bathsheba at the Fountain" at the Zwinger Museum in Dresden. The expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka, who was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, appealed to the city of Dresden which was published in March 1920 in more than 40 newspapers, so that in the future, whoever wanted to defend their political ideas will keep away from the Museum. George Grosz and John Heartfield, Berlin Dadaists who militated in the Spartacist League, did not hesitate to answer Kokoschka and published in the magazine "Der Gegner" (The adversary) the article "Der Kunstlump" (the art mob), exhorting citizens to be careful with the "bloodsucker fangs" of Kokoschka

Erste Internationale Dada-Messe, Berlin 1920
First International Dada Fair organized between 30th June and 5th August 1920 in Berlin in the gallery of Dr. Otto Burchard. In the centre of the ceiling there was the Prussian Archangel of Heartfield and Schlichte in officer's uniform stuffed with tow, a knife in his sleeve, a pig's head mask and a sign hung with the phrase: "From heaven I descend here”. On the left the work of Otto Dix entitled Kriegskrüppel (paralytics of war). Veterans have come to look at the painting.

Berlin 1920. Johannes Baader on a chair next to his assemblage Greatness and misery in Germany, in the centre Kurt Schwitters with three copies of his book To Anna Blume, in the background there are some posters stuck in a propaganda column with the poem To Anna Blume On the right Richard Huelsenbeck.
Richard Huelsenbeck not only made clear his antipathy toward Schwitters in the introduction of the Dada Almanac, but to kill two birds with one stone, he used Schwitters to discredit Hausmann's friend, Johannes Baader, in another article published in the Dada Almanac using the pseudonym of Hans Baumann, "... [Baader] He pleased that part of the public that equates Dada with madness. Kurt Schwitters disguised as Salvador, a dilettante brain with cosmic underpants."

Hans Richter atelier in Berlin 1921
At the beginning of 1921, in Richter's atelier, a group committed to constructivism met; it was formed, among others, from left to right: Natan Altmann, Alfred Kemény, Naum Gabo, his brother Antoine Pevsner, Lissitzky, in the background Cornelis van Esteren, Willi Baumeister, behind Viking Eggeling and László Péri. Sitting with a cigar in his hand Mies van der Rohe, Hans Arp who was visiting and in the background Moholy-Nagy. Sitting Werner Graeff and Hans Richter and standing behind Van Doesburg.

Theo van Doesburg arrived in 1921 at Weimar, the headquarters of the Bauhaus and was completely surprised, the Bauhaus was "sick", affected by the fever of Mazdaznan, a sect derived from Zoroastrianism and represented by the Swiss painter Johannes Itten who taught in the preliminary courses the basics of colour and form. Shaved heads, red robes and colonic irrigation. El Lissitzky also found it disconcerting: "Before, in Russia marked the criminals with a diamond on their backs and deported them to Siberia. They also shaved half a head. Here in Weimar, the Bauhaus stamps its stamp - the red square - on everything, front and back. I think they also shave their heads."
Lissitzky takes a picture of the photographer, Johannes Itten and Theo van Doesburg, in the background Coloured sphere by Itten, image of Dr. Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha'nish, the founder of Mazdaznan.

Marc Chagall would recall years later that when he arrived in Berlin, in the summer of 1922, he had never seen so many rabbis and constructivists together. After the Russian revolution anti-Jewish laws were abolished. Chagall founded in 1919 the Vitebsk People's Art College in Belarus. El Lissitzky was also a professor that same year, both were Jews. In 1921 El Lissitzky travelled to Berlin, almost as an ambassador of the new Soviet culture, contacting the Berlin Dadaists and collaborated very closely with Kurt Schwitters in Hannover. Chagall had to leave Russia because of his disagreements with the regime and especially with Malevich.
First Exhibition of Russian Art in Berlin, 15th October 1922
From left to right El Lissitzky and Marc Chagall, in the background two rabbis, seated David Sterenberg, on his right D. Marianov, Nathan Altmann, Naum Gabo and Friedrich Lutz

Congress of the Constructivists and Dadaists in Weimar, September 1922
From left to right, Kurt Schwitters, Hans Arp, Max Burchartz, Lotte Burchartz, Hans Richter, Nelly van Doesburg, Cornelis van Eesteren, Theo van Doesburg, Peter Röhl, Alexa Röhl and Werner Graeff.
Hans Richter tells in the documentary Dada à Berlin of L'Institut National de L'audiovisuel in France that being in the atelier of Röhl, a huge man with a cardboard in front and one behind with a huge W, like a sandwich man, appears from behind a door and begins to declaim the poem W W. They were all stupefied, when he finished he bowed his head. It was the first time that Richter had contacted Schwitters, three years later, and other times, he visited him in Hannover.

Hans Richter with his collection of Dada Cogwheels, 1923
Hannah Höch: Cutting with a kitchen knife through the beer belly of the Weimar Republic, 1919. Theo van Doesburg: Mecano magazine Red number, 1922. Raoul Hausmann: Elasticum, 1920. Below, Man Ray: Dancer- Danger, 1920. Below left to right, Francis Picabia: Le Fiance 1916-1918 and Machine tournez 1916-1918. And in the quasi hidden corner Marcel Duchamp: Broyeuse de chocolat, 1913.

Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic, 1923. "On 1st November 1923, a pound of bread cost 3,000 million marks". A woman looking for a job, some war maimed people trying to sell something, a man with two assistant transports billions of marks to go shopping, George Grosz prepares the work "Inflation"

The Square, what a great invention (1925)
When they prepared the book “The isms of art 1914-1924", Arp and Lissitzky became enemies, because Arp insisted that he and Sophie Taeuber had invented the square in Zurich in 1915. The first squares had actually been "invented" by Kazimir Malévich in 1913 with his cubist-futurist paintings, and with his Black square on white background between 1914 and1915. Here we see some square paintings and their authors, who have come to pay homage to Malevich. Theo and Nelly van Doesburg, Sophie Taeuber and Hans Arp, Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers, Jen and The Lissitzky, standing Piet Mondrian and sitting Paul Klee beside him Josef Albers and standing to the right Kazimir Malévich.

Hannah Höch and Til Brugman in the music room of Til house in The Hague, 1926
Hannah Höch met Raoul Hausmann in 1915 and started an extramarital affair that was very fruitful artistically speaking (it could have been more productive if she had not had to take care of Hausmann so much, ah,men!), but an emotional disaster. When she met Kurt and Helma Schwitters in 1918, she created an important bond with the couple, Kurt suggested that she changed the name of Johanne in the line of his poem To Anna Blume, which can be read back and forth. Höch participated in the first Dada exhibition in 1919 in Gallery I.B. Neumann and in the Dada Messe in 1920. In 1921 and 1922 he accompanied Hausmann and Schwitters to Prague on his Dada Tour; in 1923 she broke up with Hausmann. In June 1926 Kurt and Helma Schwitters go on vacation to the North Sea in Holland, they invite Hannah Höch to accompany them.
Til (Mathilda) Brugman went to live with her partner, the singer Sienna Masthoff, to The Hague in 1917, in the year that the Stijl group begins. She was in contact with the members of the group through Mondrian and gave language lessons, translations for Theo van Doesburg's magazine and became a travelling dealer for Mondrian and the members of Stijl. She began to write sound-visual poems. In 1923 Gerrit Rietveld designed a chair and a table for her music room, Vilmos Huszár painted the walls in colours. The summer of 1926 when she met with Kurt and Helma Schwitters in Kijkduin in the North Sea, she met Hannah Höch and they fell in love. Hannah settled in The Hague and they travelled through Europe until 1929 when they returned to Berlin. In 1936 their relationship ended and Til returned to The Hague in 1939.

Berlin, 28th March 1934
Exhibition of Italian futurism of aircraft paintings, Aeropittura
Kurt Schwitters was in Berlin visiting Moholy-Nagy. The legendary futurist F.T. Marinetti was also in the city. Schwitters and Moholy were invited to the exhibition and to a banquet in honour of Marinetti; Moholy did not want to go, as a foreigner he risked being arrested, but he accompanied Schwitters out of friendship. There they met an old acquaintance of Schwitters, actor and collaborator of the Sturm magazine, Rudolf Blümner (he had published the phonetic poem Ango Laïna in Sturm in 1921). Blümner had written an introduction to the catalogue of the exhibition. The party was full of Nazi gerfalcons and our visitors limited themselves to drinking and step of the hosts.
The Nazis, recently installed in power, were divided over some artistic movements, in the Night of the long knives, 30th June, the nucleus of Nazis related to expressionism was dismantled, and on the Day of the Party, in Nuremberg at the beginning of September, Hitler equally attacked the "Cubists, Futurists and Dadaists". Blümner was left without a job because his wife was Jewish. After the exhibition in Amsterdam, Moholy-Nagy escaped to London and Chicago. Schwitters held on until 1936, shortly before he was to be arrested. He never returned. His works were part of the exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) in 1937. From left to right, Kurt Schwitters, F.T. Marinetti, Rudolf Blümner and Moholy-Nagy, who does not want to appear in the photo.