Hannah Höch, 1925
November 1, 1889|
May 31, 1978 (aged 88)|
Berlin, West Germany
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Hannah Höch (1889–1978) was a German Dada artist. She is best known for her work of the Weimar period, when she was one of the originators of photomontage.
Life and work
Hannah Höch was born on 1 November 1889, in Gotha, Germany, as Anna Therese Johanne Höch. The eldest of five children, Höch grew up in a comfortable, small-town bourgeois environment. Her father, Friedrich Höch, worked as a supervisor at an insurance company and her mother, Rosa Höch, née Sachs, was an amateur painter. When she was fifteen, her parents took her out of the Girls' High School to care for her newborn sister, Marianne. Höch was not able to continue her education until six years later, when she enrolled in the School of Applied Arts in Berlin-Charlottenburg. She studied glass design with Harold Bengen from 1912 until the onset of World War I in 1914, when the school closed. According to Höch, the war's eruption shattered her comfortable world view and produced in her a newfound political consciousness. Höch returned to Gotha and worked for the Red Cross.
In January 1915 Höch returned to Berlin to continue her studies. This time, she enrolled in a graphic arts class taught by the art nouveau artist Emil Orlik at the School of the Royal Museum of Applied Arts (later known as the State Museum of Applied Arts). In the same year, Höch met the Austrian-born artist Raoul Hausmann, with whom she had an intense, difficult romantic relationship until 1922. She also developed a close friendship with Hannover dadaist Kurt Schwitters--indeed, it was Schwitters who added the final "h" to Hannah so that like Anna, it would become a mirror image. Höch later contributed two grottoes to Schwitters' Merzbau, one in 1922 and the other in 1925.
For ten years, between 1916 and 1926, Höch worked three days a week at the Ullstein Verlag, Berlin's major publisher of magazines and newspapers. Employed in the handicrafts department, Höch designed knitting, crocheting, and embroidering patterns for magazines and booklets. In the summer of 1918, while Höch and Hausmann were on vacation at the Ostsee, they claimed to have discovered the principle of photomontage in the form of the cut-and-paste images that soldiers on the front sent to their families. This find would significantly affect Höch's artistic production, for photomontage became the preferred medium for her shrewd social and political critiques of the 1920s. In addition to mass-media photographs, Höch incorporated lace and handiwork patterns into her montages, thus combining the traditional language of women's crafts with that of modern mass culture.
Indeed, one of Höch's primary preoccupations was the representation of the "new woman" of the Weimar Republic, whose social role and personal identity were in a complex process of redefinition in the postwar period. Women enjoyed new freedoms, including the right to vote in 1918 and an increased presence in the working world, albeit in low-paid positions. The subsequent increase in disposable income made women a prime audience for the mass press, which became a venue for the expression of desires and anxieties associated with women's rapidly transforming identities. Juxtaposing photographs and text to both endorse and critique existing mass-media representations, Höch parodied elements of bourgeois living and morals and also probed the new, unstable definitions of femininity that were so widespread in postwar media culture.
Höch was the only woman involved with Berlin Dada, and she participated in minor and major events alike. Her engagements ranged from playing a tin lid in Jefim Golyscheff's anti-symphony in an April 1919 Dada soirée to exhibiting in the Erste Berliner Dada-Ausstellung [First Berlin Dada Exhibition], along with Raoul Hausmann, George Grosz, Johannes Baader, Walter Mehring, Jefim Golyscheff, Fritz Stuckenberg, and Erika Deetjen. In the First International Dada Fair of 1920 in Otto Burchard's art gallery, the largest of all the Dada exhibitions, Höch presented her socially critical photomontages as well as her handcrafted Dada dolls, in turn showcasing the plurality of artistic tactics she mobilized for her Dada art. In the same year as the Dada Fair, Höch joined the leftist Novembergruppe, participating in annual exhibitions from 1920 to 1923, as well as in 1925, 1926, 1930, and 1931.
After Berlin Dada, Höch developed contacts with De Stijl in Holland. In the fall of 1926 she moved to The Hague to live with the Dutch writer Til Brugman, with whom she had a nine-year lesbian relationship. During the National Socialist regime, Höch was forbidden to exhibit. She lived in inner emigration in Berlin-Heiligensee, on the outskirts of Berlin, where she continued to work until her death on 31 May 1978. (Source)
- Hannah Höch, ed. Bogusław Balicki, Łódź: Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi, 1977,  pp. (Polish)/(English)
- Maud Lavin, Cut with the Kitchen Knife: The Weimar Photomontages of Hannah Hoch, Yale University Press, 1993, xvii+260 pp. (English)
- Maud Lavin, "Hannah Höch's From an Ethnographic Museum", in Women in Dada: Essays on Sex, Gender, and Identity, ed. Naomi Sawelson-Gorse, MIT Press, 1998, pp 330-359. (English)
- Ruth Hemus, "Hannah Höch", in Hemus, Dada's Women, Yale University Press, 2009, pp 91-128. (English)
- Paula K. Kamenish, "Hannah Höch: Expanding the Dada Network", in Kamenish, Mamas of Dada: Women of the European Avant-Garde, University of South Carolina Press, 2015. . (English)