An Analysis of the Art History of Dadaism Movement in an Essay

Dadism is a multiple, anti-art movement resulting from the social and psychological dislocations of World War 1. As a movement Dadaism is important for freeing up artistic expression and forms, as well as for being a generating influence on surrealism. Throughout dadas history there was many different meanings and forms that developed in the four main dada centres. Dada developed firstly in Zurich and New York in 1915 then long after spread to Germany where it had four different centres (Berlin, Hanover and Cologne), and then saw the ends of it in Paris.

Even though not expressed in books and so on Dada influenced many other cities and areas.

There are many reasons for the differences in the different centres of Dada. The beginning of Dada all began in the Armory show in New York, which was prior to the movement in 1913. It introduced Modernism to the U.S.A. Marcel Duchamps NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE (a cubist and futurism influenced piece) was a sensation.

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Duchamp was a key figure in the development of Dada. Dada helped give the benefit of the doubt to a totally different concept of art. The Dada movement officially began in 1915 and ended about in 1923. The reason that Dada was an anti-art movement was that a few years prior to the war the Futurist artists of Italy glorified machines and futuristic ideas. The Dadaists believed that if art was apart of the culture and society that created war.

The art was just as much as a influence as anything else, this is why the Dadaist took such a strong anti-art attitude.

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Duchamp considered Dada as ideas whereas Tristan Tzara thought of it more as a revolutionary act against the normal culture and politics of human existence. This explains the multiple ideas and paths that Dada took over its history. Dada had a great multiplicity of ideas and meanings not only varying in different cities but also within them. Dada is the attitude and the thoughts of the many different artists that made up the era and the movement. Most cities refer to Dada as a attitude. Dadas intention was to confuse, they often contradicted earlier statements and opinions made about the movement. One of the key purposes of dada was to free art from the dictates of society.

Dadaism was a Cultural Revolution. The dada artists revolted and had hatred against the war, Dadaist hated the society that would carry out such a tragedy , they believed that the society they lived in was corrupt and the values they held were all wrong. The Zurich Dada officially began with the first evenings as a Cabaret Voltaire in the neutral country of Zurich (Switzerland). A small theatre founded by Hugo Ball. Principally the Zurich Dadaists consisted of Hugo Ball (poet and founder of Dadaism), Hans (Jean) Arp (sculptor, poet), Tristan Tzara (writer, poet, philosopher) others also included Janco and Huelsenbeck.. The Zurich Dadaists were all horrified by the war, which they blamed on western civilisation. Zurich had distinguished differences from the other centres of Dada because it was made to express their REVOLT.

They specifically organised anti-artistic events at the Cabret Voltaire, these events were principally directed against western art. Zurich Dada can be seen as the Anti-Art Dada movement. Key features about the Zurich Dadaist was that they had automatic writing, abstract biomorphic sculpture, syllabic poetry, performances (often shouted) accompanied by the beating of Drums. A lot of work grew out of the use of the laws of chance, this technique originally began in Zurich. Zurich Dada was galvanised by the arrival of Tristan Tzara , he was a unique and charismatic individual who energised the growing group of writers, artists and independent thinkers the exact point of freeing art.

Tristan Tzara wrote the Dada manifesto in 1918 it was a poetic and highly provocative statement of Dadas aim and philosophy. Zurich Dada did however produce new forms of graphics and new ideas in film making. It influenced modern forms of poetry, music, drama and painting. The foremost painter in the Zurich group was Jean Arp, known primarily for his painting he was also a poet of some ability and creativity. He later moved to Paris and became a sculptor. Arps forms retained their organic essence and in doing so he began the tradition which one branch of surrealism was to follow. This was the use of arbitrary and non-descriptive colour, these art forms influenced later artists such as Miro. Paul Klee was a early influence on Arps work.

Mountains Table Anchors Navel 1925 (Jean Arp)

Another parallel centre for Dada was New York. This was were the Armory show began. New York Dada grew around Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray (photomontage, rayographs), In New York, Duchamp was considered the foremost exponent of Dada. His complex conceptual writings led the way in terms of definition and explorations of the meaning and form of art. Man Ray-and Picabia were later to leave New York for Paris.

New York Dada was more conceptual and complex and less urgent in its approach than those Dadaists in Europe closer to the war. New York was a sleeping giant after 1919 that awoke after the 2nd world war this had important repercussions. Like Switzerland (Zurich) the USA was also a neutral country at this time before Pearl Harbour. Emigres from the war in Europe also flocked here, they also intended to be pacifists, anti-art and apolitical. Although the New York used different mediums and methods to physically produce their works, they still used the same element of chance and shared the Zurich dada spirit of revolt. They were anti-art, anti-bourgeois, antreligion and anti-art Dadaists.

Marcel Duchamp was the artist to promote the Dada movement in New York. He arrived in 1915 from Paris and was known prominently for his Armory Show. He had turned his back on modern art movements because they were dry and humourless. His first revolt was against the cubists and futurist artists who were the movements before the war began. Duchamp employed some of the futurists devices, cubists ideas of faceting and multiple, superimposed imagery (simultaneity) to satire and ridicule those previous movements. This can clearly be seen through one of his most famous works.

Nude Descending a Staircase 1912 (Marcel Duchamp)

German Dada was more angry more overtly political and also intermixed somewhat with expressionism. This was because Germany was the centre of the war and the war was based around Germany. German Dadaists however remained cynical and cutting. They practiced there work in three places Berlin, Hanover and Cologne. German Dadists included Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters, George Grosz ,Hannah Hoch ,Raoul Hausmann and Richard Huelsenbeck. Richard Huelsenbeck left Germany. Huelsenbeck had revolutionary tendencies and a taste for action, which was not shared by all other Dadaists

Berlin Dada differed from all other types of Dada in that it was politically active and the images produced were representational. Because Germany was so war weary art started to become more popular because it had no graphic representations of the horrors of the war. German Dada therefore had to become representational to maintain the Dada spirit of revolt. The given movement berliner will happen to history through the incorporation of the new artistic techniques of diffusion of ideas between the masses, mainly the photomontage. George Grosz was also quite revolutionary in the sense by biting expressionistic satires he was denouncing militarism and capitalism. This was because Dadaists in Germany believed that people should not be treated by wealth or in classes they wanted equality for mankind no Aristocracy.

The Burial of the Poet Oskar Panizza 1917 (George Grosz)

In Hanover , Germany Dada the work of a single artist Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948). His role on the international art scene makes him one of the most important figures of the 20th century. Schwitters had numerous ties with the Berlin group but remained more or less on the official side of Dadaism. His works and Dadaism was far less politically engaged, following a period of expressionist and cubofuturist influence, Schwitters created the new original kind of art he called merz, this is a meaningless group of letters extracted from the word kommerzbank. Merz was originally scraps of rubbish collected and adhered to the canvas. These three-dimensional collages influenced later art such as surrealism.

Star Picture Merz Picture 1919 (Kurt Schwitters)

Max Ernst moved to Cologne to establish a Dada centre with the arrival of Jean Arp in 1919 changed their direction of Dada. Arp convinced Ernst and other Dadaists in the area to keep apolitical. Ernst while recovering from an illness in 1920 discovered the world of organics under a microscope. This led to such works as the Gramineous Bicycle. These biological drawings led to another branch of surrealism. During this period, Ernst also very influenced by Giorgio De Chirico, produced several of his best works by combining different techniques of collage.

The Gramineous Bicycle 1920 (Max Ernst)

Paris Dada was the last place for Dada to occur, it occurred during 1919-1923. Paris Dada included the work of the poet Guillaume Apollinaire , Francis Picabia from New York and a contribution from Tristan Tzara. Tzara met with Andre Breton who furthers more greatly contributed and influenced surrealism. By Tzara moving to Paris he further enhanced his status as the leader and founder of Dada as we know it today. Man Ray also joined the movement in Paris to work with Abstract film.

There was friction between the Dadaist in Paris and those in Germany this was because the French Dadaists were apposed to the political stance of the Berlin counterparts. The exhibitions and manifestos that the group produced received increasing publicity .A split began to occur between Andre Breton group and tzaras group. In 1922 the final break came for Dada to determine the direction of Dada. Picabia and Tzara had made a decision at the Paris conference for worldwide Dadaists that Dadaists are against Dada. Dada was declared dead. In 1922 to 1924 these two years consisted and were used to formulate the new movement that surrealism was about to take. Surrealism was incredibly influenced by the movement Dada.

Dada was the art movement that freed art from society and the barriers that art faced in general. Dada was and is the movement to revolt against the war and problems created by it. Their stance was for political and psychological reasons to help society believe that the war was bad. As well as being the generating influence on surrealism as we see it today.

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An Analysis of the Art History of Dadaism Movement in an Essay. (2022, Nov 06). Retrieved from

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