Fine Art Photography Series
Raoul Hausmann

Biography of Dada Photomontage Artist.

A leading exponent of pictorialism
in Berlin.

Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971)


Raoul Hausmann's Art
Early Life and Training
Berlin Dada
Later Career
Biographies of Other Creative Photographers

For an explanation of photographic terms, see: Art Photography Glossary.


Raoul Hausmann's Art

Along with John Heartfield (Helmut Herzfeld) (1891-1968), Hannah Hoch (1889-1978), Heinrich Hoffmann (1885-1957) and Leni Riefenstahl (1902-2003), the versatile Austrian artist Raoul Hausmann - the self-proclaimed "Dadasoph" and "director of the Dada Circus" - was one of the most famous exponents of fine art photography in Berlin, during the interwar years. One of the founders of Berlin Dada in 1918 and a key figure among the city's avant-garde artists, he was - like Heartfield - noted for his photomontages and photographic collages. (Note: The term "photomontage" describes the technique used in the creation of a pictorial image from parts of different photographs. A form of collage, its exponents typically are involved in the entire process of shooting, developing and then creating the finished image.) In addition to being the co-inventor of the photomontage, Hausmann also invented the optophonetic poem, and produced a wide range of photograms, landscape paintings, female nudes, and portrait art, including portrait busts like his Mechanical Head ("Mechanischer Kopf) (1919-20). One of the most original artists of his day, his revolutionary ideas had an immediate, sustained impact on avant-garde art in the Berlin of the 1920s. Beyond Germany, his work had a key influence on the constructivism of Eastern-European artists and the Dutch De Stijl movement. An anarchist and Utopian, he was the intellectually electrifying source of inspiration of a whole generation.

• See also: the History of Photography (c.1800-1900).
• For the aesthetics of photography, see: Is Photography Art?
• For the top practitioners, see: Greatest Art Photographers.



Early Life and Training

Born in Vienna, Hausmann received his early artistic training from his father, the history painter and curator Victor Hausmann. In 1901 he moved with his family to Berlin in 1901, when he was 14. In 1905, he met Elfride Schaeffer, a young violinist, whom he married three years later. From 1908 to 1911 he studied fine art painting and sculpture at the Studien-Ateliers fur Malerei und Plastik in Berlin-Charlottenburg, after which he began taking an interest in the Sturm gallery, owned by Herwarth Walden (1879-1941). Here he came under the influence of German Expressionism, and began printmaking in the studio of Erich Heckel (1883-1970), a founder of the Die Brucke group with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976). Other artist friends included the Cubist/ Expressionist Otto Freundlich (1878-1943). Hausmann also started writing for Walden's Der Sturm magazine, as well as the anarchist paper Die Freie Strasse, which encouraged the formation of his nihilistic tendencies. Hausmann's anarchism would soon resurface in his Dadasophy, his theoretical contribution to Berlin Dada. As an Austrian citizen living in Germany he was exempt from call-up in the German army), but in 1915, he met and had an affair with the designer Hannah Hoch (1889-1978), a personal and creative relationship which lasted until 1922.

Berlin Dada

In 1918, Hausmann was one of the founding members of Berlin Dada, which took root at the fashionable Isaac Neumann's gallery, in the Kurfurstendamm. And from 1919 onwards he became an original contributor to Der Dada magazine, edited by Tristan Tzara (1896-1963). Meanwhile other pioneering activists included Richard Huelsenbeck (1892-1974), George Grosz (1893-1959), John Heartfield and Hannah Hoch. Dada's "anti-art" aesthetics demanded a whole new approach to visual art: among other things it placed great importance on the use of new materials and artistic techniques. The discovery of "photomontage" by Hausmann, Hoch and Heartfield fitted this requirement exactly and soon became the technique most associated with Berlin Dada. Also taken up by Johannes Baader (1875-1955) and George Grosz, it also had a major influence on Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948), El Lissitsky (1890-1941) and Russian Constructivism.

In 1920, Grosz, Heartfield and Hausmann organized "The First International Dada Fair", probably the best known of all Berlin Dada's events, featuring some 200 works by a variety of the city's avant-garde artists. Although financially unsuccessful, the fair gained widespread exposure in Amsterdam, Milan and Rome.

It was also around this time that Hausmann produced his famous example of assemblage art, known as "Mechanical Head" (The Spirit of Our Times) (Mechanischer Kopf: Der Geist Unserer Zeit) (c.1919-20; wood, leather, aluminium, brass; Musee National d'Art Moderne, Paris).

Later Career

From 1920, as Berlin Dada went into decline, Hausmann developed a strong friendship with Kurt Schwitters. In 1923 he abandoned painting and printmaking, in favour of various types of art, including experimental photographic techniques. In the late 1920s, after a second marriage, he re-invented himself as a society photographer, and lived in the fashionable Berlin district of Charlottenberg, spending his summers on Sylt or on the Baltic. In 1931 he showed eight works in a Berlin group exhibition of photomontage art, organized by Cesar Domela Nieuwenhuis. In the same year he applied for the post of lecturer at the Bauhaus design school but was turned down. In 1933 he left Germany for Ibiza, then Zurich and Prague, before finally settling in Peyrat-le-Chateau, Limoges, France, in 1938. See also Nazi art (1933-45).

After the war Hausmann published several books about Dada, including Courier Dada (1958), and opened discussions with several American artists, including Robert Rauschenberg, George Maciunas, Jasper Johns, Wolf Vostell and Daniel Spoerri, about the emerging trend known as Neo-Dada, as well as the European Fluxus movement and Nouveau Realisme. He also produced a number of photo-pictograms and photomontages and, in the 1950s, a quantity of oil painting. In 1967 he had his first retrospective (in Stockholm). He died on February 1, 1971, in Limoges.


Art by Raoul Hausmann has been exhibited in some of the best galleries of contemporary art in Europe and America. Here are some examples. Unless stated all shows are solo events.

1920 Berlin (International Dada Fair) Group show
1931 Berlin (Art Library/Fotomontage) Group show
1936 Zurich (Museum of Design)
1937 New York (Museum of Modern Art/Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism)
1967 Stockholm (Moderna Museet)
1974 Paris (Musee National d'Art Moderne)
1980 Malmo (Sweden) (Konsthall)
1981 Hannover (Kestnergesellschaft)
1986 Vienna (Museum Moderner Kunst)
1994 Berlin (Berlinische Galerie)
1997 Bonn (Rheinisches Landesmuseum) Group show
2001 Saint-Etienne (France) (Musee d'art moderne)
2003 Berlin (Berinson Gallery)
2005 Berlin (Art Library) Group show
2005 Paris (Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou/Dada) Group show
2006 New York (Museum of Modern Art/Dada) Group show
2006 Washington DC (National Gallery of Art/Dada) Group show

Biographies of Other Creative Photographers

For early pioneers, see: 19th-Century Photographers. In addition to those referred to above, here is a selected list of some of the best known pictorialist camera artists of the 20th century.

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) Photo-Secession founder
Edward Steichen (1879-1973) Famous for his early pictorialism
Edward Weston (1886-1958) Still life photographs
Man Ray (1890-1976) Dada, fashion
Irving Penn (1917-2009) Fashion photos
Richard Avedon (1923-2004) Fashion, portraiture
Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-89) Figurative images and still lifes
Jeff Wall (b.1946) Staged pictorialist photography
Nan Goldin (b.1953) Feminist camera art
Cindy Sherman (b.1954) Surrealistic self-portraits
Andreas Gursky (b.1955) Architecture, landscapes

• For more about photomontages and collages, see: Homepage.
• For other forms of camera art, see: Video Art.

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