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Erika Billeter

(b Berlin, Dec 15, 1896; d Wassenaar, March 13, 1983).

Dutch photographer, Photomontagist and painter, active also in Germany. He belonged to the Dada group in Berlin and was a friend of George Grosz, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield and Erwin Blumenfeld. From 1922 to 1925 he was associated with the Bauhaus in Weimar, producing during this period the photocollage Metropolis (1923; Leiden, Rijksuniv.), the single work for which he remains best known, and which has become a classic image of the 20th-century city. His period at the Bauhaus clearly helped shape his photographic style, his photomontages in particular betraying the influence of both Dada and Constructivism. In 1927 he moved to the Netherlands, founding and then teaching at the Nieuwe Kunstschool in Amsterdam (1933–7). From 1935 to 1940, and again from 1945 to 1960, he was professor of drawing and painting at the Academie voor Beeldenden Kunsten in The Hague. He continued to work as both a painter and photographer without ever recapturing the fame that he had enjoyed with his work of the 1920s....

Article

Timothy O. Benson

(b Vienna, July 12, 1886; d Limoges, Feb 1, 1971).

Austrian photomontagist, painter, photographer, printmaker, writer, and theorist. He trained in the academic artistic tradition under his father, Victor Hausmann (1859–1920). In 1900 he went to Berlin, where he later became a central figure in Dada. His important friendship with the eccentric architect and mystical artist Johannes Baader (1875–1956) began in 1905. In the first years of the next decade he was associated with such artists as Erich Heckel and Ludwig Meidner and produced numerous paintings, including Blue Nude (1916; Rochechouart, Mus. Dépt.), and woodcuts, several of which were published in his book Material der Malerei Plastik Architektur (Berlin, 1918). These works blended Expressionism with the influences of artists then exhibiting at Herwarth Walden’s Sturm-Galerie: Fernand Léger, Alexander Archipenko, Robert Delaunay and Sonia Delaunay, Arthur Segal, and others. Around 1915 his widening contacts with the writers Salomon Friedländer and Franz Jung led to innumerable theoretical and satirical writings that were published in ...

Article

Barbara Lange

revised by Andrés Mario Zervigón

[Herzfeld, Helmut ]

(b Berlin, June 19, 1891; d Berlin, April 26, 1968).

German photomontagist, draughtsman, typographer, stage designer, and film director. After a difficult childhood owing to the persecution of his father for his political beliefs, he studied art at the Königliche Kunstgewerbeschule in Munich from 1907 to 1911, specializing in advertising art. In 1912 he took his first job in a paper packaging company (for which he completed graphic design work) in Mannheim, moving to Berlin in 1913, where he and his brother Wieland Herzfeld made contact with avant-garde circles. (Wieland changed his surname to Herzfelde in early 1914.) Heartfield’s experiences in World War I led him to conclude that the only worthy art was that which took account of social realities (see Eclipse of the Sun on the Rhine, 1957). He destroyed all his early work.

From 1916 Heartfield collaborated closely with George Grosz and in the summer of 1917, like Grosz, anglicized his name, although he did not adopt this form officially until after the war. His earnest criticism of bourgeois society found its expression in his commitment to the ...

Article

Ellen Maurer

(Johanne )

(b Gotha, Nov 1, 1889; d Berlin, May 31, 1978).

German painter and photomontagist. She moved to Berlin in 1912 to study at the Städtischen Kunstgewerbe- und Handwerksschule Charlottenburg. Her course was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I, and she then enrolled at the Lehranstalt des Kunstgewerbemuseums in Berlin, where she studied under Emil Orlik until 1920. She had a relationship with Raoul Hausmann from 1915 to 1922, and through him came into contact with the literary and artistic circle that formed the Club Dada (see Dada) in 1918. The collective activities of this avant-garde movement came to a climax between 1918 and 1922 in exhibitions, demonstrations and multimedia events. Photomontage (e.g. Mother, 1925–6) which was its own expressive art form, was created by Höch and Hausmann in 1918, partly as a response to the instability of the war years, and partly as an anti-academic alternative to German Expressionism.

Höch’s best-known photomontage, Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Era of the Weimar Beer-belly Culture...

Article

John Milner

[Lisitsky, El’ ; Lisitsky, Lazar’ (Markovich )]

(b Pochinok, Smolensk province, Nov 23, 1890; d Moscow, Dec 30, 1941).

Russian draughtsman, architect, printmaker, painter, illustrator, designer, photographer, teacher, and theorist.

After attending school in Smolensk, he enrolled in 1909 at the Technische Hochschule, Darmstadt, to study architecture and engineering. He also travelled extensively in Europe, however, and he made a tour of Italy to study art and architecture. He frequently made drawings of the architectural monuments he encountered on his travels. These early graphic works were executed in a restrained, decorative style reminiscent of Russian Art Nouveau book illustration. His drawings of Vitebsk and Smolensk (1910; Eindhoven, Stedel. Van Abbemus.), for example, show a professional interest in recording specific architectural structures and motifs, but they are simultaneously decorative graphic works in their own right and highly suitable for publication. This innate awareness of the importance of controlling the design of the page was to remain a feature of Lissitzky’s work throughout radical stylistic transformations. He also recorded buildings in Ravenna, Venice, and elsewhere in Italy in ...

Article

Astrid Schmetterling

(b Miesbach, Upper Bavaria, Aug 21, 1894; d Keilberg, nr Aschaffenburg, Feb 25, 1982).

German painter, collagist, printmaker and photographer. He studied briefly at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich (1913–14) and in 1913 began to make Expressionist woodcuts, which were published in magazines such as Die Aktion (Berlin), Die Weissen Blätter (Leipzig) and Sirius (Zurich). From 1915 to 1920 he lived in Zurich and Geneva, where he was associated with the Dada movement. He continued creating woodcuts but also made reliefs, paintings and collages from newspaper cuttings and other printed papers. At the same time he became interested in abstracting photography and using it in a more metaphoric way. In 1918, while living in Geneva, he created his first ‘schadographs’, such as Untitled (Fish; 1918; New York, MOMA), contact prints of collages and objects on photosensitive paper. Like Man Ray’s rayographs and Moholy-Nagy’s photograms, these cameraless photographs reproduced the negative image of the textures placed on them, creating a new form of representation....