Raoul Hausmann

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Raoul Hausmann
Raoul Hausmann, taken by Hannah Höch, 1919
Raoul Hausmann

(1886-07-12)July 12, 1886
DiedFebruary 1, 1971(1971-02-01) (aged 84)
Limoges, France
Known forCollage, Photography, Sculpture, Poetry, Performance, Theory
Notable workMechanical Head [The Spirit of Our Age], c. 1920

Raoul Hausmann (July 12, 1886 – February 1, 1971) was an Austrian artist and writer. One of the key figures in Berlin Dada, his experimental photographic collages, sound poetry, and institutional critiques would have a profound influence on the European Avant-Garde in the aftermath of World War I.

Early biography[edit]

ABCD (Self-portrait) A photomontage from 1923–24

Raoul Hausmann was born in Vienna but moved to Berlin with his parents at the age of 14, in 1901.[1] His earliest art training was from his father, a professional conservator and painter. He met Johannes Baader, an eccentric architect and another future member of Dada, in 1905. At around the same time he met Elfride Schaeffer, a violinist, whom he married in 1908, a year after the birth of their daughter, Vera. That same year Hausmann enrolled at a private Art School in Berlin,[2] where he remained until 1911.

After seeing Expressionist paintings in Herwarth Walden's gallery Der Sturm in 1912, Hausmann started to produce Expressionist prints in Erich Heckel's studio, and became a staff writer for Walden's magazine, also called Der Sturm, which provided a platform for his earliest polemical writings against the art establishment. In keeping with his Expressionist colleagues, he initially welcomed the war, believing it to be a necessary cleansing of a calcified society, although being an Austrian citizen living in Germany he was spared the draft.

Hausmann met Hannah Höch in 1915, and embarked upon an extramarital affair that produced an 'artistically productive but turbulent bond'[3] that would last until 1922 when she left him. The relationship's turmoil even reached the point where Hausmann fantasized about killing Höch.[4] He talked down to her about her opinions on everything from politics to art, and only came to her aid when the other artists of the Dada movement tried to exclude her from their art shows.[5] Even after defending her art and arguing for its inclusion in the First International Dada Fair, he went on to say Höch "was never part of the club."[6] Though Hausmann repeatedly told Höch that he was going to leave his wife to be with her, he never did.[7]

In 1916 Hausmann met two more people who would become important influences on his subsequent career; the psychoanalyst Otto Gross who believed psychoanalysis to be the preparation for revolution, and the anarchist writer Franz Jung. By now his artistic circle had come to include the writer Salomo Friedlaender, Hans Richter, Emmy Hennings and members of Die Aktion magazine, which, along with Der Sturm and the anarchist paper Die Freie Straße[8] published numerous articles by him in this period.

'The notion of destruction as an act of creation was the point of departure for Hausmann's Dadasophy, his theoretical contribution to Berlin Dada.'[9]

Berlin Dada[edit]

When Richard Huelsenbeck, a 24-year-old medical student who was a close friend of Hugo Ball and one of the founders of Dada, returned to Berlin in 1917, Hausmann was one of a group of young disaffected artists that began to form the nucleus of Berlin Dada around him. Huelsenbeck delivered his "First Dada Speech in Germany", January 22, 1918 at the fashionable art dealer IB Neumann's gallery, Kurfürstendamm Berlin. Over the course of the next few weeks, Hausmann, Huelsenbeck, George Grosz, John Heartfield, Jung, Höch, Walter Mehring and Baader started the Club Dada. The first event staged was an evening of poetry performances and lectures against the backdrop of a retrospective of paintings by the establishment artist Lovis Corinth at the Berlin Sezession, April 12, 1918. Amongst the contributors, Huelsenbeck recited the Dada Manifesto, Grosz danced a "Sincopation" homaging Jazz, whilst Hausmann ended the evening by shouting his manifesto The New Material In Painting at the by-now near riotous audience;

"The threat of violence hung in the air. One envisioned Corinth's pictures torn to shreds with chair legs. But in the end it didn't come to that. As Raoul Hausmann shouted his programmatic plans for dadaist painting into the noise of the crowd, the manager of the sezession gallery turned the lights out on him."[10]


The phoneme kp' erioUM 1919

The call for new materials in painting bore fruit later the same year when Hausmann and Höch holidayed on the Baltic Sea. The guest room they were staying in had a generic portrait of soldiers, onto which the patron had glued photographic portrait heads of his son five times.

"It was like a thunderbolt: one could – I saw it instantaneously – make pictures, assembled entirely from cut-up photographs. Back in Berlin that september, I began to realize this new vision, and I made use of photographs from the press and the cinema." Hausmann, 1958[11]

The photomontage became the technique most associated with Berlin Dada, used extensively by Hausmann, Höch, Heartfield, Baader and Grosz, and would prove a crucial influence on Kurt Schwitters, El Lissitzky and Russian Constructivism. It should also be pointed out that Grosz, Heartfield and Baader all laid claim to having invented the technique in later memoirs, although no works have surfaced to justify these claims.

At the same time, Hausmann started to experiment with sound poems he called "phonemes"[12] and "poster poems", originally created by the chance lining up of letters by a printer without Hausmann's direct intervention.[13] Later poems used words which were reversed, chopped up and strung out, then either typed out using a full range of typographical strategies, or performed with boisterous exuberance. Schwitters' Ursonate was directly influenced by a performance of one of Hausmann's poems, "fmsbwtazdu", at an event in Prague in 1921.[14]

Der Dada: a new periodical[edit]

Cover of der Dada vol1, including a poem, "Dadadegie", by Baader and Hausmann 1919

After Hausmann contributed to the first group show, held at Isaac Neumann's Gallery, April 1919, the first edition of Der Dada appeared in June 1919. Edited by Hausmann and Baader, after receiving permission from Tristan Tzara in Zurich to use the name, the magazine also featured significant contributions from Huelsenbeck. The periodical contained drawings, polemics, poems and satires, all typeset in a multiplicity of opposing fonts and signs.

At the beginning of 1920, Baader, the "Oberdada", Hausmann, the “Dadasoph", and the "Welt-Dada" Huelsenbeck undertook a six-week tour of Eastern Germany and Czechoslovakia, drawing large crowds and bemused reviews. The programme included primitivist verse, simultaneous poetry recitals by Baader and Hausmann, and Hausmann's "Dada-Trot (Sixty-One Step)" described as 'a truly splendid send-up of the most modern exotic-erotic social dances that have befallen us like a plague...'[15]

The First International Dada Fair, 1920[edit]

Organised by Grosz, Heartfield and Hausmann, the fair was to become the most famous of all Berlin Dada's exploits, featuring almost 200 works by artists including Francis Picabia, Hans Arp, Ernst and Rudolf Schlichter, as well as key works by Grosz, Höch and Hausmann. The work Tatlin At Home, 1920, can be clearly seen in one of the publicity photos taken by a professional photographer; the exhibition, whilst financially unsuccessful, gained prominent exposure in Amsterdam, Milan, Rome and Boston.[16] The exhibition also proved to be one of the main influences on the content and layout of Entartete Kunst, the show of degenerate art put on by the Nazis in 1937, with key slogans such as "Nehmen Sie DADA Ernst", "Take Dada Seriously!", appearing in both exhibitions.

The Mechanical Head[edit]

Mechanical Head (The Spirit of Our Time), assemblage circa 1920

The most famous work by Hausmann, Mechanischer Kopf (Der Geist Unserer Zeit), "The Mechanical Head (The Spirit of Our Time)", c. 1920, is the only surviving assemblage that Hausmann produced around 1919–20. Constructed from a hairdresser's wig-making dummy, the piece has various measuring devices attached including a ruler, a pocket watch mechanism, a typewriter, some camera segments and a crocodile wallet.[17]

"Der Geist Unserer Zeit – Mechanischer Kopf specifically evokes the philosopher George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831). For Hegel...everything is mind. Among Hegel's disciples and critics was Karl Marx. Hausmann's sculpture might be seen as an aggressively Marxist reversal of Hegel: this is a head whose "thoughts" are materially determined by objects literally fixed to it. However, there are deeper targets in western culture that give this modern masterpiece its force. Hausmann turns inside out the notion of the head as seat of reason, an assumption that lies behind the European fascination with the portrait. He reveals a head that is penetrated and governed by brute external forces.[18]

After Dada[edit]

Montage von Sechs Lichtstudien vom Jahre 1931, montage printed in 'Camera' periodical, 1941–42

Friendship with Schwitters[edit]

Huelsenbeck finished his training to become a doctor in 1920 and started to practice medicine; by the end of the year he had published the Dada Almanach and The History of Dadaism, two historical records that implied that Dada was at an end. In the aftermath, Hausmann's friendship with Kurt Schwitters deepened, and Hausmann started to take steps toward International Modernism. In September 1921, Hausmann, Höch, Schwitters and his wife Helma undertook an 'anti-dada' tour to Prague. As well as his recitals of sound poems, he also presented a manifesto describing a machine "capable of converting audio and visual signals interchangeably, that he later called the Optophone".[19] After many years of experimentation, this device was patented in London in 1935. He also took part in an exhibition of photomontages in Berlin in 1931, organised by César Domela Nieuwenhuis.[20]

In the late 1920s, he re-invented himself as a fashionable society photographer, and lived in a ménage à trois with his wife Hedwig and Vera Broido in the fashionable district of Charlottenburg, Berlin. Hannah Höch - by now herself living with a woman, the Dutch author Til Brugman – left a sketch of Hausmann around 1931:

"After I had offered to renew friendly relations and we met frequently (with Til as well). At the time he was living with Heda Mankowicz-Hausmann and Vera Broido in Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße in Charlottenburg. Elfrided Hausmann-Scheffer, Til and I went there often. But I always found it very boring. He was just acting the photographer, and the lover of Vera B, showing off terribly with what he could afford to buy now – the ésprit was all gone." Hannah Höch[21]

In later years, Hausmann exhibited his photographs widely, concentrating on nudes, landscapes and portraits. As Nazi persecution of avant-garde artists increased, he emigrated to Ibiza, where his photos concentrated on ethnographic motifs of pre-modern Ibizan life. He returned to Czechoslovakia in 1937, but was forced to flee again in 1938 after the German invasion. He moved to Paris, then Peyrat-le-Château, near Limoges, living there illegally with his Jewish wife Hedwig, in a quiet, secluded manner, until 1944 . After the Normandy landings in 1944, the pair finally moved to Limoges.

The war over, Hausmann was once again able to work openly as an artist. He resumed correspondence with Schwitters with the aim to collaborate on a poetry magazine, PIN, but Schwitter's death in 1948 stopped the project. He published books about Dada, including the autobiographical Courier Dada, (1958). He also worked on "photograms", photomontages and sound poetry, and even returned to painting in the Fifties.

Revival of interest in Dada[edit]

In the 1950s there was a revival of interest in Dada, especially in America. As interest grew, Hausmann began corresponding with a number of leading American artists, discussing Dada and its contemporary relevance. He refuted the term Neo-Dada, currently in vogue, which had been applied to a number of artists including Yves Klein and the Nouveau Réalistes, Robert Rauschenberg and Fluxus.

'His almost complete isolation was relieved only by extensive and partly conflict-ridden correspondence with old friends from the Dada movement as well as young writers and artists such as Jasper Johns, Wolf Vostell and Daniel Spoerri.'[22]

He wrote to George Maciunas, who had included his work in the early Fluxfests, in 1962:

"I think even the Americans should not use the term "neodadaism" because neo means nothing and ism is old-fashioned. Why not simply "Fluxus"? It seems to me much better, because it's new, and dada is historic. I was in correspondence with Tzara, Hulsenbeck and Hans Richter concerning this question, and they all declare "neodadaism does not exist"... So long."[23]

He died on February 1, 1971, in Limoges.[24] His last work, the book, Am Anfang war Dada, was published posthumously in 1972.[25]

Scientific interests and technical work[edit]

In addition to his work as an artist, Hausmann was interested in science and technology throughout his career, especially emerging fields like television and sound film, and Einstein's work on relativity (which Hausmann rejected).[26] In 1929, he received a patent for a "device for monitoring body cavities and tubes," which today we would call an endoscope (patent number DRP473166). While researching light and electronics for his artworks, Hausmann collaborated with a Russian engineer Daniel Broido to design a computer that used similar technology. The device was granted a patent by the British patent office in 1934 (patent number GB446338).[27]

Documentary and Artistic Estate[edit]

Berlinische Galerie[edit]

In addition to the documentary partial estate, the collection of the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin (Germany) also includes works of art by Hausmann. In addition to early paintings, these include around 60 works on paper from the years 1911 to 1930 as well as over 350 photographic works.[28]

The documentary part of the estate was acquired by the museum in 1992 and focuses on evidence of Raoul Hausmann's life and activities in Berlin up to his emigration in 1933, as well as correspondence with his wife Elfriede and his daughter Vera Hausmann up to Raoul Hausmann's death.[29]

In addition to biographical documents, the partial estate consists largely of correspondence. These document, among other things, Hausmann's intellectual exchange with contemporaries, including Johannes Baader, Adolf Behne, César Domela-Nieuwenhuis, Otto Freundlich, Werner Gräff, Franz Jung, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, László Moholy-Nagy, Hans Richter, Franz Roh, Kurt Schwitters, Arthur Segal and Franz Wilhelm Seifert. Typewritten business correspondence has been preserved as carbon copies and reply letters.[30]

In addition, manuscripts and texts by Hausmann (and third parties) on art, culture and philosophy, as well as technical and scientific studies, have survived in the partial estate.[30]

The focus of the literary texts is the novel manuscript Hyle, whose stages of development are documented by manuscripts and typescripts.[30]

In 2019, the Hausmann collection was expanded through a donation by the German universal artist Timm Ulrichs (*1940). The documentary collection comprises Ulrichs' correspondence with Hausmann from 1967 to 1970, enriched with drafts of Hausmann's texts.[31]

Musée d’Art Contemporain de la Haute Vienne Rochechouart[edit]

The Musée Départemental d'Art Contemporain[fr] at Rochechouart Castle in France holds the second part of Raoul Hausmann's documentary estate. In 1993, the museum acquired the largest part of Hausmann's correspondence from the 1940s until his death in 1971, around 6,000 letters. In 1995, this part of the documentary estate came to the museum together with a large number of unpublished texts, including theoretical and poetic writings, typescripts and notebooks. In 1996, the purchase of more than 1,200 photographic negatives and contact sheets further supplemented the holdings at the museum in Rochechouart.[32]


  1. ^ Raoul Hausmann at Kunstbus (Dutch)
  2. ^ Arthur Lew-Funcke's Atelier for Painting and Sculpture
  3. ^ Dada, Dickerman / Sabine T Kriebel, National Gallery of Art Washington, 2006 p472
  4. ^ Maria Makela (1996). "By Design: The Early Work of Hannah Höch in Context". In Boswell, Peter; Makela, Maria; Lanchner, Carolyn (eds.). The photomontages of Hannah Höch (1. ed.). Minneapolis: Walker Art Center. p. 64. ISBN 9780935640526.
  5. ^ Makela, Maria (1997). von Ankum, Katharina (ed.). Women in the Metropolis: Gender and Modernity in Weimar Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 119–121.
  6. ^ Hemus, Ruth (2009). Dada's Women. United States: Yale University Press. p. 92. ISBN 9780300141481.
  7. ^ Makela, Maria (1997). von Ankum, Katharina (ed.). Women in the Metropolis: Gender and Modernity in Weimar Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 119–121.
  8. ^ de:Die freie Straße On German Wikipedia
  9. ^ Quoted in Dada, Dickerman/ Sabine T Kriebel, National Gallery of Art Washington, 2006 p472
  10. ^ Contemporaneous review from the Berliner Börsen-Courier, quoted in Dada, Dickerman, National Gallery of Art Washington, 2006 p88
  11. ^ Quoted in Dada, Dickerman, National Gallery of Art Washington, 2006 p90
  12. ^ Jas H. Duke. "Sounds, sound poetry, and sound/text compositions, Jas. H. Duke". Rainerlinz.net. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
  13. ^ "Relations between sound poetry and visual poetry, Christian Scholz". Findarticles.com. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
  14. ^ "UbuWeb Sound - Kurt Schwitters". Ubu.com. May 5, 1932. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
  15. ^ Hamburger Nachrichten, 1920, quoted in Dada, p440-1
  16. ^ Dada, Dickerman, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2006, p100
  17. ^ "Dada Biographies, NGA, Washington". Nga.gov. Archived from the original on April 2, 2013. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
  18. ^ Jonathan Jones. "The Spirit of Our Time - Mechanical Head, Raoul Hausmann (1919)". Retrieved December 21, 2014.
  19. ^ Dada, Dickerman, National Gallery of Art Washington, 2006 p446
  20. ^ "Cesar Domela". Kunstbus.nl. December 31, 1992. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
  21. ^ Collages, Hannah Höch 1889-78, Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations,1985.p54
  22. ^ "Raoul Hausmann - Biography and Offers - Buy and Sell". Kettererkunst.com. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
  23. ^ Mr Fluxus, Williams and Noël, Thames and Hudson, 1998, p40
  24. ^ Patricia Rochard (1985). 100 Years of Art in Germany: 1885-1985 : Ingelheim Am Rhein, 28 April-30 June 1985. The City. p. 34.
  25. ^ "Raoul Hausmann". Retrieved August 18, 2022.
  26. ^ Ether Machines: Roaul Hausmann's Optophonetic Media, Arndt Niebisch, p162
  27. ^ The Dada Computer
  28. ^ Berlinische Galerie - Berlin's Museum of Modern Art (ed.). "Artist page Raoul Hausmann in the online collection". sammlung-online.berlinischegalerie.de. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  29. ^ "DADA Berlin". berlinischegalerie.de. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  30. ^ a b c Burmeister, Ralf; Gorki, Philip. "Raoul Hausmann. Finding Aid for the Documentary Partial Estate" (PDF). Berlinische Galerie (in German). Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  31. ^ "Collection Online | Berlinische Galerie | Ihr Museum für moderne und zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin". sammlung-online.berlinischegalerie.de. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  32. ^ "The Raoul Hausmann resource library". www.musee-rochechouart.com. Retrieved January 15, 2023.


  • Raoul Hausmann : Kamerafotografien, 1927–1957 / Andreas Haus.Schirmer-Mosel, c1979.
  • Hausmann, Raoul and Schwitters, Kurt; ed. Jasia Reichardt. PIN, Gaberbocchus Press (1962); Anabas-Verlag, Giessen (1986).
  • Collages, Hannah Höch 1889-78, Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations,1985
  • Kurt Schwitters, Center Georges Pompidou, 1994
  • Dada, Dickerman/ Sabine T Kriebel, National Gallery of Art Washington, 2006
  • Hausmann at Artchive
  • Cut and Paste, a History of Photomontage

Further reading[edit]

  • Bergius, Hanne Das Lachen Dadas. Die Berliner Dadaisten und ihre Aktionen. Gießen: Anabas-Verlag, 1989. ISBN 978-3-8703-8141-7
  • Bergius, H. Montage und Metamechanik. Dada Berlin - Ästhetik von Polaritäten (mit Rekonstruktion der Ersten Internationalen Dada-Messe und Dada-Chronologie) Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag 2000. ISBN 978-3-786115-25-0
  • Bergius, H. Dada Triumphs! Dada Berlin, 1917-1923. Artistry of Polarities. Montages - Metamechanics - Manifestations. Translated by Brigitte Pichon. Vol. V. of the ten editions of Crisis and the Arts. The History of Dada, ed. by Stephen Foster, New Haven, Conn. u.a., Thomson/ Gale 2003. ISBN 978-0-816173-55-6
  • Biro, M. The Dada Cyborg: Visions of the New Human in Weimar Berlin. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009. ISBN 0-8166-3620-6
  • Schmid, Andreas Nachhut der Avantgarde. Raoul Hausmann und Richard Huelsenbeck als Historiographen des Dadaismus, in: Heteronomieästhetik der Moderne, ed. by Irene Albers, Marcus Hahn, Frederic Ponten, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2022, pp. 189–216.

External links[edit]

  • Raoul Hausmann correspondence, Getty Research Institute. Accession No. 850994. The collection details Hausmann's life in exile and chronicles his professional activities from 1945 to 1971.