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Lady Dada - Hannah Hoch, Female Artist

Updated on March 29, 2012
Self Protrait
Self Protrait

Born Joannes Hoch in 1889, Gotha in Germany, the daughter of an Insurance executive. In 1912 she left home, moving to Berlin and enrolled on a course for Applied Arts. Here she studied calligraphy, embroidery, fabric and wallpaper design and graphic arts.

In 1916 she started working for one of Germany’s largest publishing houses, Ullstein Verlag, within the handicrafts division. This gave her access too much of her source material, while creating lace patterns and tablecloth designs for the companies “womens” magazines. Her artwork would explore the boundaries between the popular culture and icons of the day and place them in a contemporary art setting.

Dada Knife 1920
Dada Knife 1920
Dada Panorama 1919
Dada Panorama 1919
Beautiful German Girl 1930
Beautiful German Girl 1930

The Dada Years

A year earlier she had met and started a relationship with Dadaist activist Rauol Hausmann and it was her time in this fiery, tempestuous affair that she developed her photomontage style. Despite the Dadaist statement of revolutionary progress and their nods towards feminist liberation, it was with great reluctance that Hoch was accepted into the group. Hans Richter describing her as a hostess, “the girl who procured sandwiches, beer and coffee, on a limited budget”.

Hoch’s style meanwhile continued to evolve; with disjointed, decapitated and juxtaposed images created from magazine cuttings. She became master of these disturbing and compelling montages.

Hoch's piece “Cut With the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany (1919-20)” was included in the 1st International Dada Fair. She clearly expresses her distrust and suspicion of Weimar Germany in this and pieces like “Dada Panorama” (1919).

By 1924 the group had pretty much dissolved itself, Hannah now, freed from the political, anti-art rhetoric of the Dada manifesto, went on to produce work of a more feminist nature. Exploring the themes common to the periodicals she had worked on. Her work mocks the happy housewives of Die Dame and BIZ magazines, and in the Ethnographic Museum exhibition examines ethnicity and colonialism. Using the images of smiling domestic bliss against ethnic masks and sculpture to produce hauntingly stark pictures.

In 1926 she moved to The Hague and began a love affair with Dutch female writer, Til Burgman. She continued to work, having a successful show in Amsterdam and further questioning sexuality, race and politics of the period. The couple moved back to Berlin in 1929 and remained together up until 1935.  However Nazi Germany was around the corner and cultural conformity was expected.

Lino cut 1969
Lino cut 1969

The War and beyond

During this time Hoch kept her head down, she married pianist Kurt Matthies in 1938, divorcing in 1944, spending the war years in a quiet Berlin suburb. She worked designing book jackets, producing safe images of plants and animals, making sure not to attract attention to herself. The effect of blending in and producing the traditional did not leave her after the war. Much of Hoch’s work from then onwards is less controversial, neutral, without controversy. Effectively becoming one of the hausfraus she deplored before the war.

Her life was full of contradictions her bisexuality, lovers, marriage, abortions, her politically charged and progressive artworks and her love of traditional crafts. She championed women’s rights and racial understanding and designed tea towels. A complex and creative person whose effects and processes are still felt in the art rooms of today. She was so much more than, as an obituary described her on her death in 1978 as “the blonde bobbed, androgynous muse of the bad boys Dada club of 1919”.

Other Artists on this Hub

Twentieth Century Welsh Painter - Gwen John
Sister of Augustus John, Rodin's lover and artist

Female Painter from the Baroque Period - Artsmisia Gentileschi
First female member of Florence's Accademia della Arti a Disegno,

Female Painters of the Renaissance - 1400 -1650

Baroque Painter - Caravaggio
Brilliant, inspired artist, leading light who died tragically young

Rococo Portrait Painter - Rosalba Carriera

Australian Impressionist - Rupert Bunny


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    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I like how her work seems to question traditional concepts of sexuality. Thanks for introducing me to this artist!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      as a young teen i find that this person is very inspiring and talented and more people should look at this page and take a moment too appreciate her art !!!

    • knell63 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      THanks Les, I thought the title amusing, I am waiting Gaga to now contact me and ask me to remove it. This seems to be her latest form of self publicity. Re. Hannah, another of those imaginative, creative spirits that seems to have slipped through the loop.

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 

      8 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Great title. I live near Rochechouart in France and the castle there has a permanent collection of the work of a fellow Dada artist, Raoul Hausmann who lived in the area after the war.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Very, very interesting. She WAS a lot more than the blonde who gave the other artists their coffee. What a complex woman, what a complex artist. Good job!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      Very interesting about a ontraversial personality and art. Thank you.

    • knell63 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      She definitely broke new ground and students still produce montages as one of their first art experiments. I love the way her magazine images now have an old feel about them and both the look and subject matter take on a familiar but distant feel.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hannah Hoch was certainly an interesting and controversial figure. She was well ahead of her time in terms of her work, which was quite a contrast to the Post-Impressionist, and Naturalist art that proceeded the art of the early 20th century.


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