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date: 08 February 2023



  • Dawn Ades
  •  and Matthew Gale

Updated in this version

updated bibliography, 25 July 2013

Artistic and literary movement launched in Zurich in 1916 but shared by independent groups in New York, Berlin, Paris, and elsewhere. The Dadaists channelled their revulsion at World War I into an indictment of the nationalist and materialist values that had brought it about. They were united not by a common style but by a rejection of conventions in art and thought, seeking through their unorthodox techniques, performances, and provocations to shock society into self-awareness. The name Dada itself was typical of the movement’s anti-rationalism. Various members of the Zurich group are credited with the invention of the name; according to one account it was selected by the insertion of a knife into a dictionary and was retained for its multilingual, childish, and nonsensical connotations. The Zurich group was formed around the poets Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara, and Richard Huelsenbeck, and the painters Hans Arp, Marcel Janco, and Hans Richter. The term was subsequently adopted in New York by the group that had formed around (Henri-Robert-)Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Marius De Zayas, and Man Ray. The largest of several German groups was formed in Berlin by Huelsenbeck with John Heartfield, Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch, and George Grosz. As well as important centres elsewhere (Barcelona, Cologne, and Hannover), a prominent post-war Parisian group was promoted by Tzara, Picabia, and André Breton. This disintegrated acrimoniously in 1922–3, although further Dada activities continued among those unwilling to join Surrealism in 1924.

1. Early History: Zurich, 1914–18.

Zurich Dada’s roots lay in the pre-war international avant-garde. Kandinsky’s abstraction and theoretical writings, together with Cubism and the development of collage, liberated Dada from the dual constrictions of reality and convention. Similarly the writings of such German Expressionists as Christian Morgenstern combined with the influence of French poets, thereby allowing the Dadaists to break the direct link between words and meaning. Disgust at the war’s outbreak was immediately voiced in Zurich at Walter Serner and Konrad Milo’s Cabaret Pantagruel (from August 1914), and was reinforced by the arrival of intellectual refugees during 1915. Serner collaborated with the painter Christian Schad on the periodical Sirius (1915–16), but the latter’s move to Geneva restricted their participation in the group developing around Ball and Hennings, who founded the Cabaret Voltaire (5 February 1916), establishing performance as a central Dada medium (see also Performance art, §1, (iii)). Inviting participants, they met Arp and the Dutch painters Rees, Otto van and Adya van Rees-Dutilh (1876–1959), and the painter, sculptor, and dancer Sophie Taeuber-Arp. They were joined by the Romanians Janco and Tzara and the Germans Huelsenbeck and Richter. Other painters contributed, including Walter Helbig (1878–1968) and Oskar Lüthy (1885–1945), as well as the Austrian Max Oppenheimer (MOPP), the Romanian Arthur Segal, and the Ukrainian Marcel Slodki (1892–1943). This internationalism was reflected in the cabaret’s French and Russian evenings, at which the artists exhibited. Following the example of Futurist provocations Tzara, Huelsenbeck, and Janco performed L’Amiral cherche une maison à louer, simultaneously reading texts in three different languages. ‘African’ music and poetry were also performed at soirées nègres, emphasizing a spontaneity of expression absent from Western art. This attracted Rudolph Laban (1879–1958), who initiated African performances for which Janco made Cubist cardboard masks (e.g. 1919; Paris, Mus. A. Mod. Ville Paris).

The term ‘Dada’ first appeared in the periodical Cabaret Voltaire (June 1916), where Ball defined their activities as proving ‘that there are people of independent minds—beyond war and nationalism—who live for different ideals’. The new name signalled the more combative spirit of the first Dada Soirée (Zunfthaus zur Waag, 14 July), where Ball performed astonishing Lautegedichte (sound poems) composed from invented words, which exposed an emotive power distinct from everyday language. Tzara read his irreverent Manifeste de M. Antipyrine, which acknowledged that ‘Dada remains within the framework of European weaknesses, it’s still shit, but from now on we want to shit in different colours’. Such shock tactics increasingly came to characterize their public position. During the summer sound poems by Huelsenbeck were published (Phantastische Gebete, Zurich, 1916). They were illustrated with abstract woodcuts by Arp, which showed a spontaneity centred upon chance as a governing principle. Rejecting a determining role, Arp experimented with abstract collages ‘made according to the laws of chance’, in which papers were glued where they fell, reflecting a reverence for forces outside rationalism (see also Automatism).

Hans Arp: Enak’s Tears (Terrestrial Forms), painted wooden relief, 862×585×6o mm, 1916 (New York, Museum of Modern Art); © 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo © Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY

Despite Huelsenbeck’s return to Berlin, the group’s activities developed in March 1917 when the Galerie Corray became the Galerie Dada, and the cabaret was replaced by the launching of a movement. Work by Campendonk, Klee, Kandinsky, and others from the Sturm-Galerie in Berlin was exhibited in the gallery and accompanied by lectures. The soirées continued, including Ball’s recital of Gadji beri bimba while dressed in cardboard cylinders designed by Janco. Music by Hans Heusser, Stravinsky, and Arnold Schoenberg accompanied a later exhibition (May) combining de Chirico, August Macke, Enrico Prampolini, Fritz Baumann (1886–1942), and the Dadaists’ works in unusual materials: Janco made plaster reliefs (e.g. The Lock, 1918; Tel Aviv, Mus. A.); Taeuber-Arp and Arp collaborated on geometric tapestries, for example Symétrie pathétique (1916–7; Paris, Pompidou); and Arp made painted wooden reliefs, such as Entombment of the Birds and Butterflies (Head of Tzara) (1916–17; Zurich, Ksthaus) and Enak’s Tears (1916; New York, MOMA), which introduced Biomorphism into his work. At the same time Ball’s withdrawal confirmed Tzara’s leadership. He launched the periodical Dada, the first two numbers of which (July and December) reflected links with Sturm, Der in Berlin, Guillaume Apollinaire in Paris, Marinetti in Milan (see Futurism), and the Pittura Metafisica group in Ferrara. Through the latter he contributed to the Bolognese periodical La Brigata, inviting the editor, Francesco Meriano, to launch Italian Dada in summer 1917. However, Futurism’s dominance and wider nationalism in Italy caused Tzara to break these links.

During 1917 and 1918 Serner and Schad collaborated more closely, the latter revealing a parallel concern with chance in his ‘schadographs’, unforeseen compositions achieved, like photograms, by laying objects on photographic paper and exposing them to light (e.g. Untitled, 1918; Zurich, Ksthaus). By contrast, Richter’s Visionary Portraits were superseded by an ordered abstraction close to that of Swedish artist Viking Eggeling (e.g. Composition, c. 1916; Basle, Kstmus.) and resulted in a lengthy collaboration. Janco established an association of abstract artists, the Neue Leben (April 1918), with Arp, Taeuber, Lüthy, Fritz Baumann, Augusto Giacometti, Otto Morach (1887–1973), and other Basle painters, while Tzara’s explosive Manifeste dada 1918 proclaimed Dada as ‘the roar of contorted pains, the interweaving of contraries and of all contradictions, freaks and irrelevancies: LIFE’. By the time this appeared in Dada 3 (December 1918), Zurich Dada was entering a more nihilistic stage resulting from contact with Picabia, who had arrived from New York, via Barcelona and Paris, earlier in the year.

2. New York, 1915–21.

The works made by Picabia and Duchamp in New York, which would later be acknowledged as Dada, differed from Zurich Dada by being less concerned with the war but more aggressive towards the art establishment. Picabia frequented the circle around Alfred Stieglitz’s periodical Camera Work, including Edward J. Steichen, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, Charles Sheeler, and others (see also United States of America, §III, 3), and exhibited at Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession gallery (see Gallery 291). There he met the Mexican Marius De Zayas, who, after contributing to Apollinaire’s Les Soirées de Paris, returned to New York to help launch the innovative periodical 291 (March 1915), named after the gallery. While Picabia collaborated on 291, Duchamp, who had also arrived in New York in June 1915, was introduced by the collector Walter Arensberg (see Arensberg) into a literary circle including William Carlos Williams, Margaret Anderson, Wallace Stevens, Alfred Kreymborg, and Elsa Freytag-Loringhoven, the painters Joseph Stella, Schamberg, Morton Livingston, and Man Ray. Other exiles followed, notably Crotti, Jean, Gleizes, Albert, and the composer Edgar Varèse; they gravitated around the Modern Gallery, which De Zayas opened in October. News of their work reached Tzara, but, although he contacted De Zayas in 1916, the parallels between them and the term Dada remained unnoticed.

Francis Picabia: Portrait de Marie Laurencin. Four in Hand, ink, pencil, gouache and watercolour on cardboard, 560×455 mm, c. 1916–7 (Paris, Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne); © 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris, photo credit: CNAC/MNAM/Dist. Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, NY

In Picabia’s mechanomorphic works, such as Very Rare Picture on the Earth (1915; Venice, Guggenheim), Portrait de Marie Laurencin. Four in Hand (1916–17; Paris, Pompidou), and in Duchamp’s studies on glass, images were adapted from technical diagrams. These commented upon the human condition and even assumed erotic overtones, sometimes implied in their titles, analogies taken up by Crotti, Man Ray, and Schamberg (e.g. Man Ray’s Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with her Shadows, 1916; New York, MOMA). However, Duchamp went further in renouncing originality when he exhibited ready-mades (see Ready-made) at the Bourgeois Gallery (April 1916). These industrially produced objects constituted a deliberately anti-art gesture, raising serious questions about the accepted precepts of art. Ready-mades had been conceived in Paris, but Duchamp coined the term in New York and perfected the predetermined process of choice that removed all aesthetic judgement. While this encouraged such ironically titled objects as Schamberg and Freytag-Loringhoven’s God (plumbing trap and mitre box, c. 1917; Philadelphia, PA, Mus. A.) and Man Ray’s photograph of a mechanical egg-beater, Man (1918; Paris, Pompidou), the ready-made provoked the group’s major controversy. Duchamp tested the juryless system of the Society of Independent Artists’ exhibition held at Grand Central Palace, New York, in April 1917 (see Society of Independent Artists) by submitting a ready-made: an upturned urinal, entitled Fountain and signed ‘R. Mutt’ (1917, untraced; editioned replica 1964; Ottawa, N.G.; for illustration see Ready-made). He then publicly unmasked the fact of its concealment by the Society and defended ‘Mr Mutt’s’ freedom of choice with a photograph of the work in Blind Man (no. 2, May 1917) supported by editorials written in its defence. In an additional provocation, he and Picabia (newly returned from Barcelona) invited Arthur Cravan (1887–1918), editor and sole author of the wittily insulting Parisian periodical Maintenant (1912–14), to lecture at the exhibition, resulting in a drunken strip-tease.

These events, and such periodicals as the single issue Rongwrong and Picabia’s 391 (launched in 1916 with obvious reference to 291, on which he had worked before), mocked establishment and avant-garde alike. They also coincided with the USA’s entry into the war, which encouraged Picabia’s embarkation for Europe in September 1917 and, a year later, Duchamp’s move to Buenos Aires. Man Ray continued the provocation with T. N. T. (March 1919, edited with the anarchists Adolf Wolff and Adon Lacroix) and a replacement of artistic styles with mechanical techniques in his photographs and ‘aerographs’. Meanwhile the Modern Gallery assumed De Zayas’s name in 1919, and his promotion of radical art may have influenced the Estridentismo movement, launched in Mexico City in 1921. Duchamp’s return to New York in 1920 brought renewed collaboration with Man Ray; they acted as advisers (and president and secretary respectively) to Katherine S. Dreier’s Société Anonyme collection of international modern art founded in the same year. Man Ray and Duchamp’s single issue of New York Dada (April 1921), which included articles by Tzara and Freytag-Loringhoven, confirmed a similarity of purpose, and both set off to participate in Paris Dada.

3. Barcelona and developments in Zurich, 1916–20.

Avant-garde circles in Barcelona were aware of pre-war Parisian developments. In 1912 they had seen the first Cubist exhibition held outside France (Galería Dalmau), and after 1914 Futurism had found echoes in the work of various artists. Parisians escaping to Barcelona from the war combined these approaches in work subsequently associated with Dada. They included Marie Laurencin, Otto van Watjen, Serge Charchoune, and Hélène Grunhof; Albert Gleizes and the Delaunays also visited the city, and Cravan was there before moving to New York. Although he was also a boxer, Cravan’s bout against the World Champion, Jack Johnson, in Madrid (April 1916) was widely interpreted as a Dadaist gesture. The focus of activity was the gallery of Josep Dalmau (1867–1937), where notable shows of Charchoune, Grunhof, and Gleizes were held in 1916. The group was galvanized by Picabia, who arrived in August. The gallery launched his periodical 391 in 1917, carrying contributions from others but dominated by Picabia’s drawings and obscure references. It recalled activities in New York, giving them wider currency in Europe, and it went with him when he re-crossed the Atlantic in March 1917. In October his poems Cinquante-deux miroirs were published, and the impact of these sudden activities was extended through such periodicals as Josep Junoy’s Troços (1916–18) and Salvat Papasseit’s Un enemic del poble (1917–19) and Arc-Voltaic (1918).

Picabia established contact with Tzara while in Lucerne during 1918. He exhibited works alongside those of Arp and Janco in January 1919 (Neue Leben; Zurich, Ksthaus) before visiting Zurich in February. There his nihilism and inventiveness won immediate acclaim; he and Tzara wrote an ‘automatic’ text for 391 (no. 8, Feb 1919), and they collaborated on Dada 4–5 (Anthologie Dada) (May 1919), which linked Zurich Dada to the New York and Barcelona groups, and orientated Tzara towards Paris. An eighth Dada Soirée (Saal zur Kaufleuten, April 1919), following Picabia’s departure, included Tzara’s simultanist poem for 20 voices (Le Fièvre du mâle) and Arp’s poem Wolkenpumpe. At the same time the imminent post-war dispersal was counterbalanced by the formation of the Groupe des Artistes Radicaux, including Arp, Baumann, Eggeling, Janco, and Richter. Arp then left for Cologne, and Janco for Bucharest. Tzara shared the editorship of Der Zeltweg with Serner and Otto Flake in November, but his departure in January 1920 signalled the end of Zurich Dada. The short-lived Geneva Dada, launched in December 1919 by Serner and Schad, held a final Grand Dada Ball in March 1920.

A postscript to Zurich Dada was added in summer 1920. Tzara returned to Bucharest where he was reunited with the poet Ion Vinea and with Janco, who had established the periodical Contimporanul (1920–30) supporting non-objective art. In Italy, Tzara also visited the Mantuan Dadaists Gino Cantarelli (1899–1950) and Aldo Fiozzi, editors of Procellaria (1917 and 1919) and Bleu (1920). They introduced him to the writer and abstract painter Julius Evola (1898–1974), who immediately became Dada’s most provocative Italian agent. With encouragement from Schad, who had moved to Rome, and from Serner, Evola launched a Rome Dada season in April 1921, with an exhibition (including Cantarelli and Fiozzi) at the Galleria d’Arte Bragaglia and performances at the Grotte dell’Augusteo cabaret. His readings of his own writings and of Tzara’s Manifeste dada 1918 and his declaration of the death of Futurism caused an uproar. However, sustained Futurist hostility and his isolation following Schad’s move to realism provoked a personal crisis, and Evola suddenly abandoned Dada for philosophy.

4. Berlin Dada, 1917–22.

More so than in other cities, Berlin Dada was circumscribed by political events, as was already evident in Huelsenbeck’s ‘Der neue Mensch’ (Neue Jugend, 23 May 1917), which marked his return to the collapsing city. At the artistic Alte Café des Westerns, he met political writers and artists for whom Berlin Dada constituted an extension of their opposition to the status quo; they included Franz Jung (1888–1963), Gerhard Preiss, Heartfield and his brother Wieland Hertzfelde (1896–1988), and Grosz. They were joined by Walter Mehring, Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch, and the self-publicist Johannes Baader (1875–1955). Their disgust with the contemporary cultural situation was exposed in February 1918 in Huelsenbeck’s lecture on Dada at the Galerie I. B. Neumann, which initiated the Club Dada (12 April). There he called for an art ‘which in its conscious content presents the thousandfold problems of the day, the art which has been visibly shattered by the explosions of the last week, which is forever trying to collect its limbs after yesterday’s crash’ (Dada Manifesto, Berlin, 1918). While reiterating his moral concerns, he rejected the ideals of abstraction and of Expressionism, which was rapidly passing into the establishment. Hausmann, who became his close collaborator, responded with experiments across different media. Most notable were his phonetic poems (e.g. ‘Selenautomobile’, Dada matinée, 6 June), which, by the pronunciation of single letters, extended the Zurich sound poems. The form’s abstraction was most evident in the printed ‘scores’, dubbed ‘optophonetic poems’, in which the force of each letter was indicated by its size. This was closely related to the mixed typography and overprinting of slogans that characterized Berlin Dada publications, such as Club Dada (1918).

Raoul Hausmann: Mechanical Head: Spirit of Our Age, wooden hatmaker’s dummy with objects, 325×210×200 mm, 1919 (Paris, Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne); © 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris, photo credit: CNAC/MNAM/Dist. Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, NY

The military defeat and the abdication of Emperor William II in 1918 brought the political crisis to a head and was followed by the brutal suppression of the communist-inspired Spartakist uprising (January 1919) by the Socialist Weimar government. The Dadaists responded in two publications in February: Baader’s manifesto Dadaisten gegen Weimar, and Jedermann sein eigner Fussball, published by Hertzfelde’s Malik Verlag. The former was simply anarchic, proclaiming Baader as President of the Earth, while the latter urged the renewal of the revolution and was immediately confiscated. Heartfield’s cover of Jedermann … was one of the earliest uses of the quintessential Berlin Dada medium of Photomontage. The collaging of photographs from the mass media allowed the artists to dissect reality through unexpected combinations with other images or with words, without retreating into realism. Heartfield and Grosz made photomontage a satirical weapon, throwing back the images issued by the establishment media, while Höch and Hausmann added comments on everyday culture (e.g. Hausmann’s Art Critic, 1920; London, Tate; for illustration see Hausmann, Raoul). Assemblages of found objects, notably Hausmann’s Mechanical Head: Spirit of our Age (wooden hatmaker’s dummy with objects, 1919; Paris, Pompidou), also employed this technique. In both works the use of immediate and ephemeral materials ensured against commercial value.

The critical nature of this work meant that few German Dada periodicals survived confiscation, the exception being Hausmann’s Der Dada (1919–20), which included contributions from Picabia in its third number (April 1920, edited with Heartfield and Grosz). This reflected the heightened international activity of 1920. In February, Baader, Huelsenbeck, and Hausmann undertook an increasingly riotous performance tour to Leipzig, Teplitz-Schönau, Prague, and Karlsbad. In May, at the Erste Internationale Dada-Messe, paintings and drawings were combined with Dada posters, photomontages, and assemblages, including a uniformed dummy with a pig’s head, for which Grosz and Heartfield were fined for ridiculing the military. The show was accompanied by the Dada Almanach (Berlin, 1920), edited by Huelsenbeck, which included contributions from Zurich, Barcelona, and Paris Dada. That it included Tzara is remarkable, as Huelsenbeck bitterly attacked his ambitions in En avant Dada: Eine Geschichte des Dadaismus (Hannover, 1920). These events marked Berlin Dada’s culmination, as personal conflicts led to its fragmentation shortly after.

The celebration of Vladimir Tatlin in such works as Tatlin at Home (photomontage, 1920; Stockholm, Mod. Mus.) by Hausmann indicated the Dadaists’ continuing aspiration for a revolutionary art, which developed into an exchange with international Constructivism in the 1920s. Richter and Eggeling, who arrived in 1918 but did not participate in Berlin Dada, completed the abstract film Rhythmus 21 in 1921, the title indicating musical structures. In October Hausmann and Arp wrote ‘A Call for an Elementarist Art’ (De Stijl, iv/10, 1922) with the Suprematists Jean Pougny and László Moholy-Nagy, identifying an international art ‘built up of its own elements alone’. These issues exercised the Kongress Internationaler Fortschrittlicher Künstler in Düsseldorf in May 1922, from which Richter, Theo van Doesburg, and El Lissitzky split to form the International Faction of Constructivists (see Constructivism, §2). They became the nucleus for the Konstructivisten und Dadaisten Kongress in Weimar (September), which was attended by Tzara, Arp, and Schwitters, Kurt, and which inspired Richter’s periodical G (1923–4). In these exchanges the work of Arp, Richter, Hausmann, and Schwitters maintained an unexpected balance between Dadaist chance and irony and Constructivist idealism.

5. Associated developments: Merz, Constructivism, and Ma, 1919–25.

Huelsenbeck prevented Schwitters’s admission to Berlin Dada because of his lack of political commitment, despite the considerable success of An Anna Blume, a chance poem published in Der Sturm in 1919. Schwitters had begun to produce such works and abstract collages (Merzbilder) soon after coming into contact with Hausmann and Höch in 1918. His response to Huelsenbeck’s snub was to found his one-man ‘movement’, Merz, later in 1919, with its eponymous periodical (1923–32). His works relied upon chance finds of everyday materials, especially waste paper, with which he established a formal harmony, for example the Kots Picture (1920; for illustration see Collage). Schwitters remained close to several Dadaists, performing with Höch and Hausmann in Prague in 1921, where the latter’s phonetic poem fmsbw inspired his own Ursonate (1924–5; published in Merz, 24, 1932). He invited Arp to collaborate on Merz and arranged Tzara’s lecture tour on Dada (Hannover, Jena, and Weimar) after the Weimar Congress (1922). He also collaborated with Van Doesburg, who, as ‘I. K. Bonset’, spread a mechanistic Dada through Holland via his periodical Mécano (1922–3) and a tour undertaken with Schwitters. This coincided with the creation of Schwitters’s Merzbau (begun 1923; reconstructed 1980–83; Hannover, Sprengel Mus.), a haphazard construction of ephemeral material which would grow to fill his house.

The cross-fertilization between Dada and Constructivism was also evident in the former Austria–Hungary. Schwitters lectured in Prague throughout the 1920s, although knowledge of Cubism and Russian art meant that local interest was muted, with the exception of Hugo Dux and Artus Černik (a member of Karel Teige’s Devětsil group). However, the first tours did inspire the visiting Yugoslav writers Virgil Poljanski and Dragan Aleksić, who were associated with the Zagreb periodical Zenit (1921–6), edited by Poljanski’s brother Ljubomir Micić. Aleksić established contact with Tzara and Schwitters, organizing Dada soirées in Osijek and Subotica (1922), and Poljanski published a number of single-issue periodicals, such as Dada-Jok (Zagreb, 1922). Although reluctant to sacrifice Zenit’s independence, Micić blended Dada provocations with his admiration for Russian revolutionary culture and published the remarkable collage-paintings (known as pafamas, from Papierfarbenmalerei) of Jo Klek (pseudonym of Joseph Seissel).

A more important disseminator of Dada in Eastern Europe was the periodical MA (see MA group) edited by Kassák, Lajos, which carried articles by Dadaists. Kassák’s collages and those of Moholy-Nagy (e.g. F dans les champs, 1920; Bremen, Ksthandel Wolfgang Werner) reflected this sympathy, and Kassák arranged for the translation into Hungarian of such texts as Tzara’s Coeur à gaz (1922). There were more distant echoes of Dada. In Moscow the Nichegoki (‘nothingist’) group formed in 1919–21 around the writers Sergey Sadikov and Suzanna Mar, Yelena Nikolayeva, and the artist Boris Zemenkov; and in Tiflis (now Tbilisi, Georgia) Il’ya Zdanevich and Simon Chikovani formed the 41° and H2SO4 groups in the early 1920s. Although claiming some allegiance to Dada, they derived essentially from Russian Futurism.

6. Cologne Dada, 1919–22.

Cologne Dada secured an autonomous and pivotal position between activities in Zurich, Berlin, and Paris. Max(imilian) Ernst and Johannes Theodor Baargeld responded to the artificial calm maintained by the British occupying forces in a series of anti-authoritarian publications, beginning with Der Ventilator (1918), which attracted more politically motivated artists, including Franz Seiwert (1894–1933), Anton Räderscheidt, Marta Hegemann (1894–1970), Heinrich Hoerle (1895–1935), and Angelika Hoerle (1884–1923). Rejecting Rhineland Expressionism, they were influenced by Klee’s graphic style and de Chirico’s sense of alienation. Ernst, Baargeld and Otto Freundlich were invited to participate in the Gesellschaft der Künst at the Kunstverein in November 1919, but the insubstantial collages and prints in their exhibition, accompanied by Bulletin D, provoked controversy. Arp arrived shortly after the exhibition, and with Ernst and Baargeld formed the Dada Weststupidia 3 or W/3 (named after their address), making Fatagaga (from ‘Fabrication de tableaux garantis gazométriques’), collaborative collages whose images and titles mocked rational expectations (e.g. Ernst and Arp’s photomontage Switzerland, Birth-place of Dada or Physiomythological Flood-Picture, 1920; Hannover, Sprengel Mus.). The Hoerles and Seiwert withdrew at the last moment, claiming that Dada was ‘bourgeois art marketing’, and moved towards forming the Stupid group.

In April 1920 their periodical Die Schammade featured Arp, Huelsenbeck, Breton, and Louis Aragon from Paris and was followed by the audacious exhibition Dada Vorfrühling (April); expelled from the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bildender Künstler, Baargeld and Ernst rented space in the Winter brewery, access to which passed through its lavatories! An astonishing collection of exhibits, including a sculpture by Ernst that the public were invited to destroy (axe provided), brought uproar and police closure, as well as invitations to exhibit at the Berlin Dada Fair. However, Arp’s departure for Berlin and Paris and the proletarian orientation of the Stupid group drained Cologne Dada of further group activity. Ernst continued to experiment with photomontages and with painting over engravings (e.g. Perturbation, My Sister, 1921; Berne, Kstmus.), the transformatory power of which proved astonishing when exhibited by the Paris Dadaists in May 1921. In the autumn his holiday with Arp and Tzara in the Tyrol produced the joint publication Dada Intirol, Augrandair. There he met Breton and subsequently began a close collaboration with Paul Eluard, supplying collages for the poet’s Répétitions and collaborating on Les Malheurs des immortels (both Paris, 1922). Before moving to Paris in late 1922, Ernst also began converting his imagery of unexpected juxtapositions into oil paintings (e.g. the Elephant Celebes, c. 1921), which would be identified by Breton as one of the first Surrealist paintings.

7. Final phase: Paris, 1919–24.

Picabia was the initial focus of activity as Dada arrived in Paris by different routes. Its controversial début was marked by his blistering attack in 391 on the first post-war Salon d’Automne (1919) for concealing his mechanomorphic Child Carburettor (1919; New York, Guggenheim) and related works by Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes. Among his allies were the composer Erik Satie and Duchamp (who was visiting in late 1919), as well as the latter’s sister Suzanne Duchamp and her husband Jean Crotti, who joined him in submitting related works to the Salon des Indépendants in January 1920. At the same time, a group of poets had formed separately around Breton, Aragon, and Philippe Soupault’s periodical Littérature (1919–24), including Eluard, editor of Proverbe, Théodore Fraenkel, Benjamin Péret, Jacques Rigaut, Céline Arnauld, and Paul Dermée, editor of Z. They drew upon the French tradition, from Rimbaud to Alfred Jarry, of a poetic revolt against all norms of contemporary art and life. This was combined with their experience of the war to form a disdainful independence, embodied by Jacques Vaché, whose ultimate gesture was to commit suicide (January 1919). They were aware of Dada through Tzara’s contacts with Apollinaire and Pierre Albert-Birot’s SIC and, in 1919, exchanged contributions to periodicals with him. However, Littérature remained predominantly literary, notable for Breton and Soupault’s experiments with automatic writing, Les Champs magnétiques (1919).

Tzara was the catalyst for cooperation between Picabia and Breton, as they marked his arrival with the first Parisian soirée, the Premier Vendredi de Littérature (23 January 1920, Palais des Fêtes). The accompanying exhibition of works by de Chirico, Jacques Lipchitz, Léger, and Gris reflected the avant-garde’s confused acceptance of Dada, until their disruption brought expulsion from the Salon de la Section d’Or. Further Zurich-style soirées were publicized through Dada 6 (Bulletin Dada) (February), with its list of the movement’s 76 presidents, Dada 7 (Dadaphone) (March) and 391, no. 12, which carried Duchamp’s scandalously moustachioed Mona Lisa, L.H.O.O.Q. (Paris, priv. col.) on the cover. The season culminated with Picabia’s exhibition at Au Sans Pareil (April) and the Festival Dada (Salle Gaveau, 26 May). These events encouraged the participation of Charchoune and Vicente Huidobro, who had encountered Dada in Spain, Il’ya Zdanevich (Iliazd; 1894–1975) and the Belgian Dadaist Clement Pansaers, as well as the fashionable figures around Jean Cocteau, including Raymond Radigaet and the composers Darius Milhaud and Georges Auric.

In 1921 the group published the anti-nationalist manifesto Dada soulève tout (January), but their provocations no longer surprised the public. The Grande Saison Dada therefore introduced anti-cultural excursions and mock trials beginning with that of the nationalist writer Maurice Barrès (13 May) at the Salle des Sociétés Savantes. This event exposed divisions between the major participants, as Breton attempted to instil a greater sense of purpose into Dada in the face of Tzara’s mockery of such authoritarianism. Ernst’s exhibition of collages (Au Sans Pareil, May) provided a focus of unity, with Breton’s preface praising the power of his juxtapositions, but Tzara’s ambitious Salon Dada Exposition Internationale (Galerie Montaigne, June) was attacked by Picabia in Pilhaou-Thibaou (special issue of 391, July). At the Salon d’Automne, Crotti and Suzanne Duchamp launched Tabu, their mystical offshoot of Dada, while Picabia again caused controversy with the submission of Cacodylic Eye (1921; Paris, Pompidou), a canvas simply bearing a profusion of greetings and signatures from friends. This, together with Arp’s move towards sculpture and Duchamp’s construction of optical machines, confirmed the divergence of all Dadaists from any uniting artistic style, an attitude that would pass into Surrealism to a certain degree. The most notable arrival was Man Ray, whose paintings and provocative objects were exhibited in December 1921 (Librairie Six) and whose photographic experiments led to camera-less rayographs (for illustration see Man Ray), published as Les Champs délicieux (Paris, 1922), which were produced by the same chance technique as the schadographs. He took this further, using the same technique for a film, Retour à la raison (1923), which was greeted with public consternation.

By the time of Ernst’s arrival in 1922, Dada was disintegrating. Breton had been isolated by his project for a ‘Congrès de Paris’ to discuss the state of contemporary culture, as Tzara and others refused to participate. However, Picabia rallied to Breton’s cause in La Pomme de pins (February), just as the new series of Littérature moved away from Dada. Although Tzara retaliated, it was evident that self-destruction would result, and his lecture in Weimar in May was called ‘Conférence sur la fin de Dada’. In 1923 his Soirée de la coeur à gaz (Théâtre Michel, 6–7 July) included music by Satie and readings by Iliazd, René Crevel, and Pierre de Massot in costumes designed by Sonia Delaunay; Breton, Aragon, Eluard, and Péret stormed the stage, bringing Paris Dada to a destructive end. In launching Surrealism in 1924 Breton claimed works made under Dada, such as Les Champs magnétiques and Ernst’s collages; not everything passed into the new movement, however. Tzara published Sept manifestes Dada in 1924, while Picabia made the anarchic film Entr’acte (November) with Satie and René Clair. Of the major artists, Ernst, Man Ray, and Arp were, at least nominally, committed to the new movement, but all continued an exploration independent of Breton’s orthodoxy, while others, such as Duchamp, Picabia, and Ribemont-Dessaignes, preferred to remain outside this structure. This embodied the determination to undermine established values that had characterized all contributions to Dada, both in Paris and elsewhere, and it was this that would be echoed in other art movements of the mid- to late 20th century, in particular in international Neo-Dada, Pop art, and Nouveau Réalisme in the 1950s and 1960s.


  • T. Tzara: La Première Aventure céleste de M. Antipyrine (Zurich, 1916)
  • R. Huelsenbeck: Phantastische Gebete (Zurich, 1916)
  • A. Breton and P. Soupault: Les Champs magnétiques (Paris, 1919; Eng. trans., London, 1985)
  • R. Huelsenbeck: En avant Dada: Eine Geschichte des Dadaismus (Hannover, 1920)
  • R. Huelsenbeck, ed.: Dada Almanach (Berlin, 1920/R New York, 1966; Fr. trans., Paris, 1980; Eng. trans., London, 1993)
  • P. Eluard: Répétitions (Paris, 1922)
  • P. Eluard: Les Malheurs des immortels (Paris, 1922)
  • T. Tzara: Sept manifestes Dada (Paris, 1924); rev. as Sept manifestes Dada, lampisteries (Paris, 1963; Eng. trans., London, 1977)
  • H. Ball: Die Flucht aus der Zeit (Munich, 1927)
  • R. Hausmann: Courier Dada (Paris, 1958)
  • G. Ribemont-Dessaignes: Déjà jadis: Ou du mouvement Dada à l’espace abstrait (Paris, 1958)
  • W. Mehring: Berlin Dada (Zurich, 1959)
  • H. Richter: Dada—Kunst und Antikunst: Der Beitrag Dadas zur Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts (Cologne, 1964; Eng. trans., London, 1965/R 1978)
  • J. Kleinschmidt, ed.: Memoirs of a Dada Drummer (New York, 1974/R Berkeley and Oxford, 1974, 2/1991)
  • K. Riha and others: Dada Total: Manifeste, Aktionen, Texte, Bilder (Stuttgart, 1994)
  • D. Ades, ed.: The Dada Reader: A Critical Anthology (Chicago, 2006)


  • Facsimiles of Dada periodicals have been collected in Documenti e periodici Dada, ed. A. Schwarz (Milan, 1970) and Dada, Zurich, Paris, 1916–22, ed. M. Giroud (Paris, 1981)
  • Soirées de Paris (Paris, 1912–14; facs., Geneva, 1971)
  • Maintenant (Paris, 1912–15; facs., Paris, 1977)
  • 291 (New York, 1915–16; facs., New York, 1972)
  • Sirius (Zurich, 1915–16)
  • Cabaret Voltaire (Zurich, 1916) [facs. in Dada, Zurich, Paris, 1916–22]
  • Troços (Barcelona, 1916–18)
  • SIC (Paris, 1916–19; facs., Paris, 1980)
  • Blind Man (New York, 1917)
  • Rongwrong (New York, 1917)
  • Nord-Sud (Paris, 1917–18; facs., Paris, 1980)
  • Dada (Zurich and Paris, 1917–22)
  • 391 (Barcelona, New York, Zurich, and Paris, 1917–24; facs., Paris, 1960)
  • Arc-Voltaic (Barcelona, 1918)
  • Club Dada (Berlin, 1918)
  • Der Ventilator (Cologne, 1918)
  • Jedermann sein eigener Fussball (Berlin, 1919)
  • Der Dada (Berlin, 1919–20)
  • Littérature (Paris, 1919–24; facs., Paris, 1978)
  • Die Schammade (Cologne, 1920)
  • Contimporanul (Bucharest, 1920–30)
  • Proverbe (Paris, 1920–21)
  • New York Dada (New York, 1921)
  • Zenit (Zagreb, 1921–6)
  • Dada-Jok (Zagreb, 1922)
  • Mécano (Amsterdam, 1922–3)
  • Merz (Hannover, 1923–32)
  • R. Motherwell, ed.: The Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology (Cambridge and New York, 1951/R 1981)
  • G. Hugnet: L’Aventure Dada (Paris, 1957)
  • W. Verkauf, ed.: Dada: Monograph einer Bewegung (Zurich, 1957, rev. St Gall, 2/1965; Eng. trans., London and New York, 1975)
  • W. Rubin: Dada and Surrealist Art (New York and London, 1969)
  • M. Sanouillet: Dada (Milan, 1969; Ger. trans., Munich, 1973)
  • L. Lippard, ed.: Dadas on Art (Englewood Cliffs, 1971)
  • D. Ades: Dada and Surrealism (London, 1974)
  • G. Hugnet: Dictionnaire du Dadaïsme (Paris, 1976)
  • A. Schwarz, ed.: Almanacco Dada (Milan, 1976)
  • L. Kundera: Dada (Prague, 1983)
  • S. Lemoine: Dada (Paris and London, 1987)
  • K. Passuth: Les Avant-gardes de l’Europe centrale, 1907–27 (Paris, 1988)
  • D. Batchelor, B. Fer, and P. Wood: Realism, Rationalism: Art between the Wars (New Haven and London, 1993)
  • G. Ribemont-Dessaignes: Dada: manifestes, poèmes, nouvelles, articles, projets, théatre, cinéma, chroniques (1915–1929), ed. J.-P. Begot (Paris, 1994)
  • M. Gale: Dada & Surrealism (London, 1997)
  • H. Richter: Dada: Art and Anti-Art (London, 1997)
  • P. Wood: The Challenge of the Avant-Garde (New Haven, 1999)
  • W. Bohn: The Rise of Surrealism: Cubism, Dada, and the Pursuit of the Marvelous (Albany, 2002)
  • L. Dickerman, ed.: ‘Dada’, October, 105 (Summer 2003) [special issue]
  • J.-P. Criqui, ed.: ‘Dada’, Les cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, 88 (Summer 2004) [special issue]
  • M. Dachy: Archives Dada: Chronique (Paris, 2005)
  • G. Durozoi: Dada et les arts rebelles (Paris, 2005)
  • G. Lista: Dada: libertine & libertaire (Paris, 2005)
  • S. G. Blythe and E. D. Powers: Looking at Dada (New York, 2006)
  • M. Dachy: Dada: The Revolt of Art, trans. L. Nash (New York, 2006)
  • L. Dickerman with M. S. Witkovsky, eds: The Dada Seminars (Washington, DC, 2006)
  • D. Jones, ed.: Dada Culture: Critical Texts on the Avant-Garde (Amsterdam, 2006)
  • R. Kuenzli, ed.: Dada (London and New York, 2006)
  • A. Umland and A. Sudhalter with S. Gerson, eds: Dada in the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art (New York, 2008)
  • A. Codrescu: The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess (Princeton, 2009)
Exhibition catalogues
  • Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism (exh. cat. by A. Barr, New York, MOMA, 1936)
  • Dada, Surrealism and their Heritage (exh. cat. by W. Rubin, New York, MOMA; Los Angeles, CA, Co. Mus. A.; Chicago, IL, A. Inst.; 1968)
  • Vom Dadamax bis zum Grüngürtel: Köln in den zwanziger Jahren (exh. cat., ed. W. Herzogenrath; Cologne, Kstver., 1975)
  • Dada and Surrealism Reviewed (exh. cat. by D. Ades, London, ACGB, 1978)
  • Dada Photomontagen: Photographie und Photocollage (exh. cat., ed. C.-A. Haelein; Hannover, Kestner-Ges., 1979)
  • Dada—Constructivism: The Janus Face of the Twenties (exh. cat. by A. B. Nakov and others, London, Annely Juda F.A., 1984)
  • In the Mind’s Eye: Dada and Surrealism (exh. cat., ed. T. A. Neff; Chicago, IL, Mus. Contemp. A., 1985)
  • André Breton: La Beauté convulsive (exh. cat., ed. A. Angliviel de la Beaumelle and I. Monod-Fontaine; Paris, Pompidou, 1991)
  • Making Mischief: Dada Invades New York (exh. cat. by F. M. Naumann and B. Venn, New York, Whitney, 1996)
  • Dada: Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, New York, Paris (exh. cat., ed. L. Dickerman; Washington, DC, N.G.A.; New York, MOMA, 2006)
Specialist studies
  • M. Sanouillet: Dada à Paris (Paris, 1965)
  • M. Prosenc: Die Dadaisten in Zürich (Bonn, 1967)
  • E. Peterson: Tristan Tzara: Dada and Surrealist Theorist (New Brunswick, 1971)
  • Y. Poupard-Lieussor and M. Sanouillet, eds: Documents Dada (Geneva, 1974)
  • D. Tashjian: Skyscraper Primitives: Dada and the American Avant-Garde, 1910–1925 (Middletown, 1975)
  • S. C. Foster and R. Kuenzli, eds: Dada Spectrum: The Dialectics of Revolt (Iowa City, 1979)
  • K. Ritia, ed.: Dada Berlin: Texte, Manifeste, Aktionen (Stuttgart, 1979)
  • R. Sheppard, ed.: Dada: Studies of a Movement (Chalfont St Giles, 1979)
  • A. Melzer: The Latest Rage, the Big Drum: Dada and Surrealist Performance (Ann Arbor, 1980)
  • H. A. Watts: Chance: A Perspective on Dada (Ann Arbor, 1980)
  • R. Sheppard, ed.: New Studies in Dada: Essays and Documents (Driffield, 1981)
  • R. Sheppard, ed.: Zurich: Dadaco, Dadaglobe (Tayport, 1982)
  • J.-C. Gateau: Paul Eluard et la peinture surréaliste, 1910–1939 (Geneva, 1982)
  • I. B. Leavens: From 291 to Zurich: The Birth of Dada (Ann Arbor, 1983)
  • H. Bolliger, G. Magnaguagno, and R. Meyer: Dada in Zürich (Zurich, 1985)
  • S. C. Foster, ed.: Dada/Dimensions (Ann Arbor, 1985)
  • R. Kuenzli, ed.: New York Dada (New York, 1986)
  • G. Smid, ed.: Dames in Dada (Amsterdam, 1989)
  • A. Melzer: Dada and Surrealist Performance (Baltimore, 1994)
  • F. Naumann: New York Dada, 1915–23 (New York, 1994)
  • S. C. Foster and others: Dada: The Coordinates of Cultural Politics (New York, 1996)
  • R. E. Kuenzli, ed.: Dada and Surrealist Film (Cambridge, MA, 1996)
  • B. Altshuler: The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1998)
  • S. Foster, ed.: Hans Richter: Activism, Modernism, and the Avant-Garde (Cambridge, MA, and London, 1998)
  • N. Sawelson-Gorse, ed.: Women in Dada: Essays on Sex, Gender, and Identity (Cambridge, MA, 1998)
  • A. Roshwald and others, eds: European Culture in the Great War: The Arts, Entertainment, and Propaganda, 1914–1918 (Cambridge, New York, and Melbourne, 1999)
  • H. van den Berg: The Import of Nothing: How Dada Came, Saw, and Vanished in the Low Countries, 1915–1929 (New York, 2002)
  • F. Buot: Tristan Tzara: L’homme qui inventa la revolution Dada (Paris, 2002)
  • M. I. Gaughan, ed.: Dada New York: New World for Old (New Haven, 2003)
  • S. Bay-Cheng: Mama Dada: Gertrude Stein’s Avant-Garde Theater (New York and London, 2004)
  • M. Sanouillet: Dada à Paris, pref. M. Humbert (Paris, 2005)
  • G. Baker: The Artwork Caught by the Tail: Francis Picabia and Dada in Paris (Cambridge, MA, 2007)
  • R. Metzger: Berlin in the Twenties: Art and Culture, 1918–1933 (London, 2007)