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Raoul Hausmann Photo

Raoul Hausmann

Austrian Sculptor, Photographer, and Writer

Born: July 12, 1886 - Vienna, Austria
Died: February 1, 1971 - Limoges, France
Movements and Styles:
Modern Photography
"Seeing is an enchanted process and the transformation of this process in art is conjuring, transfixing, magic. In early times of humanity the representation of man's environment was not naturalism, simple reproduction, rather man's total relations to and perceptions of the world and the powers stirring within them were symbolically and magically grasped, condensed, transfixed."
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Raoul Hausmann
"To be a photographer is to become aware of visible appearances and at the same time acquire from them an education in individual and common optical perception. Why? Because every individual sees in his own way but sees little more than images shaped by the cultural standards of a given period."
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Raoul Hausmann
"What is important is that our optical awareness rids itself of classical notions of beauty and opens itself more and more to the beauty of the instant and of these surprising points of view that appear for a brief moment and never return; those are what make photography an art."
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Raoul Hausmann
"It was on the occasion of a visit to the Baltic seacoast on the island of Usedom in the little village of Heidebrink, that I conceived the idea of photomontage. On the walls of almost every house was a colored lithograph depicting the image of a grenadier against a background of barracks. To make this military memento more personal, a photographic portrait of a soldier had been used in place of the head. This was like a stroke of lightning, one could - I saw it instantly - make paintings entirely composed of cut-out photographs."
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Raoul Hausmann
"It is no longer possible to construct phonetic poetry in classical typography according to the rules of symmetry. This was a necessary step which had to accompany the conception of noise, emanations of "unregulated" tones, [which] no longer submitted to the well-tempered clavier. Asymmetry was an unavoidable consequence."
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"Naive anthropomorphism has played out its role. The beauty of our daily life is defined by the manikins, the wig-making skills of the hairdressers, the exactness of a technical construction! We strive anew towards conformity with the mechanical work process: we will have to get used to the idea of seeing art originating in the factories."
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Raoul Hausmann

Summary of Raoul Hausmann

One of the founders of Berlin Dada, Hausmann is credited with formulating the technique of photomontage. With his companion Hannah Höch, he devised a cut-and-paste "anti-art" strategy that was nothing short of an afront to the aesthetic and ideological standards that had come to define earlier and current avant-garde movements. In Berlin Dada's attempts to build a new aesthetic code for a shell-shocked post-war German society, his output extended to assemblage, experiments in sound poetry, and polemical writings. After the demise of the Group, Hausmann effectively reinvented himself in the duel role of fine art photographer and painter, and as the would-be inventor of an ambitious sound/image conversion machine he named the "Optophone".


  • There is a split of opinion over who "invented" photomontage. George Grosz and John Heartfield lay claim to that accolade though it was soon countered by Hausmann and Höch. What is generally agreed upon, however, is that Hausmann and Höch were considered the more expressive - or the Dada anti-art "aesthetes" - whereas Grosz and Heartfield were associated with a more direct approach that allied more candidly with the political aims of the Group.
  • Hausmann also gained renown as a pioneer of the phonetic poem; a form of poetry that abandoned rational words and sentences in favor of typed letters and punctuation marks that formed on the page an impression or a picture rather than a poem (or prose) to be read. His poems had a life beyond the page and were designed to be recited in the rhythmic manner of an avant-garde musical piece. Hausmann's fascination in the fusion of sounds and images saw him patent his blueprint for an Optophone machine (sadly never realized in the artist's lifetime).
  • Hausmann believed that "the embryo of God exists in all men". What he called the "new European man" would emerge from the ruins of a world war in the same way the post-revolutionary Russian worker had built a new Soviet society. His anti-art aesthetic would play a not-insignificant part in destroying what he called the "soulless force of the materialistic and militaristic machine" that he believed had given rise to a septic German society.
  • Prior to his starring role in the within the Dada group, Hausmann was whetting his anti-establishment appetite through his involvement with the Die Brücke movement and specifically his training under one of its greatest protagonists, Erich Heckel. It was at Heckel's atelier, indeed, that Hausmann produced a series of "primitive" lithographs and woodcuts that were his first protests against the Academic art establishment and the bourgeois political systems which he was so intent on dismantling.

Biography of Raoul Hausmann

Raoul Hausmann Life and Legacy

Speaking of his relationship with Höch, Hausmann stated "We called [the] process 'photomontage,' because it embodied our refusal to play the part of the artist". Berlin Dada would, he claimed, "strive anew towards conformity with the mechanical work process" and the new German society "will have to get used to the idea of seeing art originating in the factories".

Important Art by Raoul Hausmann

Portrait of Hannah Höch (1916)

Having already taken inspiration from the bold outlines of Matisse's figures in a series of early watercolors, Hausmann's first encounter with German Expressionism came on a visit to Herwarth Walden's Sturm Gallery in 1912 and subsequently through his involvement with Erich Heckel with whom he became close friends. Indeed, he remained committed to expressionism as late as 1917, the same year he co-formed the Berlin Dada Club. Having joined Heckel's atelier, Hausmann produced a series of lithographs and woodcuts and, firmly in keeping with the ideology of the Die Brücke movement's political opposition to the bourgeois refinements of academic painting, Hausmann favored the more "primitive" modes of artistic expression. He also took on the role of staff writer for Walden's magazine, also called Der Strum, which gave him a platform for his polemical "anti-art" essays.

Hausmann met Hannah Höch in 1915; the pair quickly embarking on an artistic and tempestuous sexual relationship that would run more-or-less the course of the Berlin Dada movement. His portrait of Höch, who appears to be reclined in (their shared) bed, carries the same expressive energy and aggressive bold outlines that were a feature of the work of Heckel, and fellow Die Brücke group member, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. In keeping with his Expressionist colleagues, Hausmann initially welcomed the war, naively buying into the group's belief that it would help cleanse German society of its staid bourgeois ideology and instigate the birth of the "new man". He did not hold his pro-war beliefs for long, however, and, anticipating the birth of Berlin Dada, would soon publish two essays on the relationship between artistic production and human subjectivity in Franz Pfemfert's anti-militaristic Die Aktion journal.

bbbb (1918)

Hausmann's phonetic poetry was designed to be "read" and performed. Featuring letters and punctuation marks in an arrangement that forms a picture rather than a poem (or prose), his formations, that do not create words or sentences, but which still might be spoken or uttered, resemble rather small insects crawling in different directions, and in different formations, across the white page. The letters are not arbitrarily placed, however, and there is a vague meandering shape that leads our eyes ultimately down to the horizontal line of letters at the bottom of the page "o n o o o h h o o u u u m h n". The interplay between text and sound opens up the opportunity for a synesthetic experience if one sees in them an innate rhythm. The phonetic poem also prompts the more meditative viewer/reader to consider the nature of semantics and the arbitrary relationship between words and their meaning (or lack of).

This was one of Hausmann's first phonetic poems. Having been constructed on a typewriter, it was very much created to be performed like a musical piece, while the visual appearance of the letters themselves turned text into image. As historian Jeanne Willette writes "The vertical-horizontal arrangement [of text on page] was invaded and dis-arranged. Rather than organization, the Dada artists stirred up disorganization, which became their contrarian design plan". The writer and Curator Timothy O. Benson adds that Hausmann's phonetic poems "were proposing a new language combining perception and articulation in the subconscious; a form of processing and expressing the world that was no longer limited to just one sense. As one of the first in his experimentation with phonetics, the aspect of performance came to be thoroughly formative for a lot of ideas later on in his life that toyed with the fusion of sound and image". Indeed, one could site bbbb as an antecedent of mid-twentieth-century Concrete Art movement in the way it offered a precise compositional structure at the expense of any kind of commitment to represent lived (or mythological) worlds.

The Spirit of Our Time (1919)

The Spirit of Our Time (1919)

With this sculpture Hausmann brought together a collection of seemingly random manufactured objects and in so doing he was in keeping with the Dadaist agenda of subverting aesthetic and artistic conventions and expectations. Indeed, The Spirit of Our Time is a classic work of Dada assemblage; giving everyday objects a new context and thereby prompting the viewer to rethink their perception of them. Hausmann said of the piece: "The everyday man has nothing but the capacities which chance has glued to his skull, on the exterior, the brain was vacant. So I took a nice wooden head, polished it for a long time with sandpaper. 1crowned it with a collapsible cup. I fixed a wallet to the back of it. 1 took a small jewel box and attached it in place of the right ear. 1 added further a typographic cylinder inside and a pipe stem. Now on to the left side. And yes, 1had a mind to change materials. 1 fixed onto a wooden ruler a piece of bronze used to raise an old antiquated camera and I looked at it. [I] still needed this little white cardboard with the number 22 because, obviously, the spirit of our time has but a numerical signification. Thus it still stands today with its screws in the temples and a piece of a centimeter ruler on the forehead".

Coming in the immediate aftermath of World War One, this piece remains probably Hausmann's most iconic work. It represents the absurdity of "the war to end all wars" and the idea that human world has been overrun by machines, and that the "machines of war" have reduced the loss of so much human life to an empty list of statistics. The title of the work could be read thus as a direct reference to the influential German philosopher Georg Willhelm Friedrich Hegel, who discussed the concept of "spirit" "geist" (or "zeitgeist"), as that which encompassed the human spirit at a given time and place. In any case, Historian Timothy O. Benson suggested that Hausmann's take on the idea of "geist" was ironic and manifest in "the concrete materiality of the objects used in place of raw art materials". Hausmann himself seemed to confirm Benson's reading when stating, "Dada is the full absence of what is called Geist (Spirit). Why have Geist in a world that runs on mechanically?"

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Raoul Hausmann
Influenced by Artist
Friends & Personal Connections
  • Erich Heckel
    Erich Heckel
  • Johannes Baader
    Johannes Baader
  • No image available
    Arthur Lewin-Funcke
  • No image available
    Ludwig Meidner
Movements & Ideas
Open Influences
Close Influences

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Content compiled and written by Esme Blair

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Raoul Hausmann Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Esme Blair
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 21 Jun 2021. Updated and modified regularly
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