Skip to main content

Visual Art: Hannah Höch

Online resources supporting the learning and teaching of the Visual Arts

About Hannah Höch

Hannah Höch (1889-1978)

Known for her incisively political collage and photomontage works, Dada artist Hannah Höch appropriated and rearranged images and text from the mass media to critique the failings of the Weimar German Government. Höch drew inspiration from the collage work ofPablo Picasso and fellow Dada exponent Kurt Schwitters, and her own compositions share with those artists a similarly dynamic and layered style. Höch preferred metaphoric imagery to the more direct, text-based confrontational approach of her contemporary John Heartfield, whose work she found “tendentious.” She rejected the German government, but often focused her criticism more narrowly on gender issues, and is recognized as a pioneering feminist artist for works such as Das schöne Mädchen (The Beautiful Girl), (1920), an evocative visual reaction to the birth of industrial advertising and ideals of beauty it furthered. Höch was, for a period of time, the partner of Dada artist Raoul Haussman. (Source)

Hannah Höch was one of the founders of Berlin Dada, working primarily in collage and photomontage. She worked with Raoul Hausmann, Richard Huelsenbeck, and George Grosz; along with fellow women artists Beatrice Wood, Sophie Tauber, and Baroness Else von Freytag (who often receive less recognition then their male counterparts).

She was a versatile artist who also made puppets, designed textiles, painted in oils, exhibited photographs, made prints, and engaged in performance art. (Source)

Da-Dandy (1919)

Das schöne Mädchen (Photomontage 1921)

Das schöne Mädchen is a photomontage piece that was done in 1919-1920 and the title translates in English to The Beautiful Girl. This piece is mixing technology and females together. The piece contains many different pieces and objects which makes it hard to fully analyze the photomontage. There is a woman in the middle of the photo who is dressed in a bathing suit sitting on a girder or a beam. The woman has a light bulb for a head and is holding what looks like a sun umbrella. Behind this woman is a large red-tinted advertisement that has a woman’s large hair-do on top of it. In the book Cut with the Kitchen Knife, this collaged woman figure was described as “she is part human, part machine, part commodity.” In the upper right corner of the piece, there is a large hand holding a clock and a woman’s head peeking out. In the lower left hand corner there is a tire, with what seems to be a man without his head inside the tire. The color scheme includes some black and white pieces along with red and orange. There are circle BMW advertisements surrounding the photo that add checkered colors of blue and white,  and red writing on the black background around the circles. Similar to the first piece, this photomontage includes a reference to the Dada movement through the woman in the upper right corner who has one cat eye that is larger than her regular eye. This larger cat eye represents a monocle which became Höch’s sign for a Dadaist. A good description of this piece that was given by the book Cut with the Kitchen Knife, is “a portrait of a modern woman defined by signs of femininity, technology, media, and advertising” (Lavin). (Source)

Hannah Höch and the Dada montage

Hannah Hoch (born Anna Therese Johanne Hoch on November 1, 1899) remains a well-known member of the Berlin Dada movement, and was among the first prominent artists to work with photo-montage techniques. Hoch attended the College of Arts and Crafts in Berlin from 1912 to 1914, during the tense lead-up to the first World War.

Hoch later described the war as having shattered her view of the world and affording her a newly political consciousness. Hoch initially became involved with Dada around 1919, as a result of her relationship with fellow Dadaist Raoul Hausmann. It was through Hausmann that Hoch was introduced to several other influential artists of the Dada movement, among them Kurt SchwittersHans Richter, and Piet Mondrian. Hoch’s work, while mostly in keeping with the general Dadaist aesthetic, skillfully added a wryly feminist note to the movement’s philosophy of disgust with the perceived wrongs of society.  

The Dadaists insisted that the valuing of “logic” among modern cultures had led to an over-valuing of conformity, classism, and nationalism which in turn provided a suitable environment for the horrors of World War I. Dadaists therefore rejected this devotion to reason in favor of chaos, nonsense, and irrationality. Through her art, Hoch quietly submitted female equality to the list of anti-bourgeois and radically leftist sentiments which Dada espoused.

Unfortunately Hoch remained alone in her attempts to convey this message, and remained the only female Berlin Dadaist, never fully accepted by the rest of the group. Hans Richter patronizingly dismissed her contribution to the movement by calling it merely “the sandwiches, beer and coffee she managed somehow to conjure up despite the shortage of money,” failing to note that Hoch was among the few members of her immediate artistic circle with a reliable income. She herself wrote:

     “None of these men were satisfied with just an ordinary woman. But neither were they included to abandon the (conventional) male/masculine morality toward the woman. Enlightened by Freud, in protest against the older generation. . . they all desired this ‘New Woman’ and her groundbreaking will to freedom. But—they more or less brutally rejected the notion that they, too, had to adopt new attitudes. . . This led to these truly Strinbergian dramas that typified the private lives of these men.”

From undated notes among Hoch’s possessions (Source)

Kubus (Cube)

Hannah Hoch
Kubus (Cube), 1926
oil on canvas

German girl (1930)

Grotesque (1963)