The German Dada artist and one of
the pioneers of the photomontage, Hannah Höch, was born on this day in 1889.
A 1926 self-portrait by artist Hannah Höch (x).
Hannah was born as Anna Therese
Johanne Höch in Gotha, Germany on November 1, 1889. Her family was of
working-class status and although Hannah received a short education at the
Gotha Höhere Töchterschule, she was eventually taken out of school in order to
help her mother care for her younger siblings. When her youngest sibling, a
sister named Marianne, was finally old enough to care for herself, Hannah was
able to return to school. This time she chose to attend the School of Applied
Arts in Berlin. Her main passion was painting and fine arts, but she studied
the more “practical” crafts of glassmaking and graphic design in order to
appease her father.
With the outbreak of World War I,
Hannah returned home from school and joined the Red Cross; however, not a year
later she moved back to Berlin and found herself in the midst of the wartime
Dada movement. She continued her studies at the School of Applied Arts and
created embroidery patterns for ladies’ magazines so that she could have a
steady income, but her real life was lived in the bars and nightclubs of the
city where she bounced ideas off the likes of iconic artists such as Kurt
Schwitters and Piet Mondrian. One of her most well-known contributions was that
of the photomontage, which is exemplified in her 1919 piece Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the
Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany.
Hannah was known to have relationships with both men and women. She was only married once, to a man
named Kurt Matthies, but one of her longest-lasting relationships was with the
famous Dutch writer and linguist Mathilda Brugman. Although the relationship
lasted 9 years and the two women openly lived together in the city of Hague,
Hannah never spoke publicly about her sexuality or sexual identity. When the Nazis
rose to power in Germany, much of her art was censored or destroyed after being
labeled “degenerate art.” Despite the danger it put her in, Hannah continued to
create photomontages throughout World War II and until her death on May 31, 1978.