Raoul Hausmann

Early biography

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. 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, who 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, 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 Hch in 1915, and embarked upon an extramarital affair that produced an ‘artistically productive but turbulent bond’ that would last until 1922. 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 Strae 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.’

Berlin Dada

When Richard Huelsenbeck (a 24 year old medical student, close friend of Hugo Ball and one of the founders of Zurich 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, Kurfurstendamm Berlin. Over the course of the next few weeks, Hausmann, Huelsenbeck, George Grosz, John Heartfield, Jung, Hch, 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 12th, 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.”

The Phoneme kp’ erioUM 1919


The call for new materials in painting bore fruit later the same year when Hausmann and Hch 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

The photomontage became the technique most associated with Berlin Dada, used extensively by Hausmann, Hch, Heartfield, Baader and Grosz, and would prove a crucial influence on Kurt Schwitters, El Lissitsky and Russian Constructivism. It should also be pointed out that Grosz, Heartfield & 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”, and poster poems originally created by the chance lining up of letters by a printer without Hausmann’s direct intervention. Later poems used words 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.

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

Der Dada: A New Periodical

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 (President of All The World) Hausmann (the Dadasopher) and the ‘World-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…’

The First International Dada Fair, 1920

Organised by Hausmann, Grosz and Heartfield, along with Max Ernst, 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, Otto Dix & Rudolf Schlichter, as well as key works by Grosz, Hch 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. 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.

Mechanical Head [The Spirit of Our Age], assemblage circa 1920

The Mechanical Head

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

“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.” Jonathan Jones,

After Dada

Montage von Sechs Lichtstudien vom Jahre 1931, montage printed in ‘Camera’ periodical, 1941-42

Friendship With Schwitters

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, Hch, 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’.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, organise by Csar Domela Nieuwenhuis.

In the late 1920s, he re-invented himself as a fashionable society photographer, and lived in a mnage trois with his wife Hedwig and Vera Broido in the fashionable district of Charlottenberg, Berlin. Hannah Hch- by now herself living with a woman, Til Brugmann – 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-Strae in Charlottenberg. 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 sprit was all gone.” Hannah Hch

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-Chateau, near Limoges until 1944 living illegally with his Jewish wife Hedwig in a quiet secluded manner. After the Normandy landings in 1944 the pair finally moved to Limoges.

Isolation: The Last Years

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 & sound poetry, and even returned to painting in the fifties.

Revival of Interest in Dada

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 it’s 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 Ralistes, 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.’

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.”

He died on the 1st February, 1971, in Limoges.

External links


A timeline, in German

Raoul Hausmann Biography

Online Dada Library featuring numerous texts by Hausmann, University of Iowa

Raoul Hausmann on DADA Companion

A brief article on Salomo Friedlaender

El Lissitsky in Germany

A nice history of sound poems, including Hausmann and Ball

Moholy Nagy and Dada

A site about dada, including Hausmann’s sound poetry

Hausmann reciting the sound-poem fmsbw

Audio of Raoul Hausmann “Pomes Phonetiques” (1919-1943) 45 rpm, Paris Ou Magazine (3:50) published on the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine @ Ubuweb


Raoul Hausmann : Kamerafotografien, 1927-1957 / Andreas Haus.Schirmer-Mosel, c1979.

Collages, Hannah Hch 1889-78, Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations,1985

Kurt Schwitters, Center George Pompidou, 1994

Dada, Dickerman/ Sabine T Kriebel, National Gallery of Art Washington, 2006

Hausmann at Artchive

Cut and Paste, a History of Photomontage


^ Raoul Hausmann at Kunstbus (dutch)

^ Arthur Lew-Funcke’s Atelier for Painting and Sculpture

^ Dada, Dickerman / Sabine T Kriebel, National Gallery of Art Washington, 2006 p472

^ de:Die freie Strae On German Wikipedia

^ Quoted in Dada, Dickerman/ Sabine T Kriebel, National Gallery of Art Washington, 2006 p472

^ Contemporaneous review from the Berliner Brsen-Courier, quoted in Dada, Dickerman, National Gallery of Art Washington, 2006 p88

^ Quoted in Dada, Dickerman, National Gallery of Art Washington, 2006 p90

^ Sounds, sound poetry, and sound/text compositions, Jas. H. Duke

^ Relations between sound poetry and visual poetry, Christian Scholz

^ Ubuweb

^ Estimated at up to 2000 people

^ Hamburger Nachrichten, 1920, quoted in Dada, p440-1

^ Dada, Dickerman, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2006, p100

^ Dada Biographies, NGA, Washington

^ Jonathan Jones quoted in the Guardian,

^ Dada, Dickerman, National Gallery of Art Washington, 2006 p446


^ Collages, Hannah Hch 1889-78, Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations,1985.p54

^ Ketterer Kunst,

^ Mr Fluxus, Williams and Nol, Thames and Hudson, 1998, p40

Categories: 1886 births | 1971 deaths | Dada | Austrian artists | Modern art

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