Raoul Hausmann was born in Vienna in 1886 and moved to Berlin in 1900. His father who was a painter gave him early guidance and works by Hausmann during this period were greatly influenced by expressionism, cubism and cubo-futurism which he had encountered at the Der Sturm Gallery.
Birth of a Dadasopher
By 1918, he had established himself as one of the founders of the Dada movement in Berlin, two years after the Zürich Dada group, set up in reaction to WW1 and dissatisfaction with a failing cultural and fine art establishment. Hausmann soon stopped painting, turning instead to novel approaches such as collage, photomontage and sound poetry. Together with his lover, the artist Hannah Höch, he became a leading light in Berlin Dada. Among emblematic works produced at the time is his assemblage sculpture Mechanical Head; Spirit of Our Time made from a dummy's head and various other items. He also composed the sound poem fmsbw which later would inspire Kurt Schwitters to write Ursonate. Although Dadaism declined after 1920, Hausmann continued to pursue its quintessential spirit of iconoclasm, breaking down barriers in the field of art.
Photography, Optophone, Writings and Exile
Raoul Hausmann began spending periods away from Berlin in the mid 1920s. He went on trips to Kampen on the North Sea or to Jershöft, a fishermen's village on the Baltic coast accompanied by his wife Hedwig and his new lover Vera Broido. During these trips he took a substantial number of photos. He also started writing more intensely, finishing for example a novel titled Hyle. A keen interest in science eventually led to his invention of the optophone, a device that converted sound into colours and vice versa. When, in 1933, he was labelled by the Nazis as a so-called degenerate artist, he fled from Germany, spending the next six years wandering across Europe, moving from Ibiza to Paris, Zurich and Prague. Whilst in Ibiza he was fascinated by the architecture and continued experimenting with photography. During this time he wrote a long story, Hyle II, a multi-lingual, poetic novel with elements of autobiography. After spending the summer of 1939 in Paris, that autumn he pushed further South to Peyrat-le-Château in the Limousin region, where he remained throughout the war years and met his future partner Marthe Prévot.
Post-War Years in Limoges
Hausmann moved to Limoges in 1944 where he lived until his death in 1971. Despite dire financial problems he managed to carry on working. Letters were exchanged with other avant-garde artists now in exile such as Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, the former director of the Bauhaus who had emigrated to the USA, and also with Kurt Schwitters who had settled in Britain.
Together with the latter he even made plans to found a poetry magazine called Pin. During the 1950s and 60s Hausmann regularly corresponded with principal protagonists of the new lettrist, situationist and Fluxus movements. He published Courrier Dada and exhibited works at MOMA in New York and at the Moderna Museet of Stockholm. Experiments in photography, collage and sound poetry continued as well as other activities including filmed performances (e.g. L’homme qui a peur des bombes).
In 1959 he took up painting again. Later work included the book Sensorialités excentriques and a series of automatic felt pen drawings.
- Chronologie de la vie de Raoul Hausmann (pdf 72Ko)