Hannah Höch Biography

Co-Founder of Berlin Dada, Famous for Photomontages

Hannah Hoch and Raoul Hausmann at 1920 International Dada Fair
Hannah Hoch and Raoul Hausmann at 1920 International Dada Fair. Apic/Getty Images

Hannah Höch Facts

Known for: co-founder of Berlin Dada, avant-garde art movement
Occupation: artist, the painter, especially noted for her photomontage work
Dates: November 1, 1889 – May 31, 1978
Also known as Joanne Höch, Johanne Höch

Hannah Höch Biography

Hannah Höch was born Johanne or Joanne Höch in Gotha. She had to leave school at 15 to take care of a sister and was not able to resume her studies until she was 22.

She studied glass design in Berlin from 1912 to 1914 at the Kunstgewerbeschule. World War I interrupted her studies, temporarily, but in 1915 she began studying graphic design at the Staatliche Kunstgewerbemuseum while working for a publisher. She worked as a pattern designer and writer on women's handicrafts from 1916 to 1926.

In 1915 she began an affair and artistic partnership with Raoul Hausmann, a Viennese artist, which lasted until 1922. Through Hausmann, she became part of the Berlin Club Dada, the German group of Dadaists, an artistic movement dating from about 1916.  Other members besides Höch and Hausmann were Hans Richter, George Grosz, Wieland Herzfelde, Johannes Baader, and John Heartfield.  She was the only woman in the group.

She was also involved, after the first World War, with political radicalism, though Höch herself expressed herself less politically than many of the others in the group.

 The Dadaist sociopolitical commentary was often satirical. Höch’s work is known for more subtle explorations of culture, especially gender and portrayals of the “new woman,” a phrase describing that era’s economically and sexually liberated women. 

In the 1920s Höch began a series of photomontages including images of women and of ethnographic objects from museums.

  Photomontages combine images from popular publications, collage techniques, painting, and photography.   Nine of her works were in the 1920 First International Dada Fair. She began exhibiting more frequently starting in the late 1920s.

One of her most famous works was Cut With the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany, portraying German politicians in contrast with (male) Dadaist artists.

From 1926 to 1929 Höch lived and worked in Holland. She lived for some years in a lesbian relationship with Dutch poet Til Brugman, in the Hague first and then from 1929 to 1935 in Berlin.  Images about same-sex love appear in some of her artwork of those years.

Höch spent the years of the Third Reich in Germany, forbidden from exhibiting because the regime considered Dadaist work “degenerate.”  She tried to remain quiet and in the background, living in seclusion in Berlin. She married the much-younger businessman and pianist Kurt Matthies in 1938, divorcing in 1944.

Though her work was not acclaimed after the war as it had been before the rise of the Third Reich, Höch continued to produce her photomontages and to exhibit them internationally from 1945 until her death.

In her work, she used photos, other paper objects, pieces of machines and various other objects to produce images, usually quite large.

A 1976 retrospective was displayed at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Nationalgalerie Berlin.

About Hannah Höch

  • Categories: artist, photomontage, Dadaist
  • Organizational Affiliations: Dadaism, Berlin Club Dada
  • Places: Berlin, Germany, Holland
  • Period: 20th century

Print Bibliography

  • Hannah Höch. The Photomontages of Hannah Hoch. Compiled by Peter Boswell.