Raoul Hausmann is one of the founders of the Dada movement in Berlin, which, during the First World War, completely redefined the forms that art took and what it aimed to achieve.
The life of Raoul Hausmann
He was a pioneer in collage techniques, one of the inventors of photomontage and an initiator of sound poetry. Above and beyond its evident iconoclasm, the Dada movement called into question artistic compartmentalization and the frontier between art and life, a postulate that never left either Hausmann or 20th century art. In 1933, the artist fled Nazi Germany and travelled around Europe before finding refuge in the Limousin region of France, where he stayed until his death in 1971.
The beginnings of Dadasophe
Born in Vienna in 1886, Raoul Hausmann settled in Berlin in 1900. He created his early works under the aegis of his father, who was a painter. These early works were influenced by Expressionism, Cubism and Cubo-futurism, which he discovered in the Der Sturm gallery.
In 1918 Hausmann was one of the founders of the Dada Berlin movement, two years after the creation of Dada in Zurich in reaction to the First World War and the failings of culture and traditional Fine Arts. He abandoned painting for new creative methods, such as collage, photomontage and sound poetry.
Hausmann and his lover at that time, the artist Hannah Höch, were amongst the leading figures in the Dada Berlin movement. The assemblage sculpture The spirit of our time, created using a dress-making dummy’s head and various random objects, and fmsbw, a sound poem reused by Kurt Schwitters in his work Ursonate, are Hausmann’s most emblematic works from this period.
Photography, optophones, writing and exile
From the middle of the 1920s onwards, Raoul Hausmann began to spend time away from Berlin. With his wife Hedwig, and his new partner Vera Broïdo, his time was spent between Berlin, Kampen on the North Sea and a fishing village on the Baltic, Jershöft, where he took many photographs. His photography and writing activities became increasingly intense, most notably with his novel Hyle.
Hausmann also carried out scientific research and came up with the optophone, a device that transformed music into colour and vice versa. In 1933 he was officially declared to be a degenerate artist and was compelled to flee Nazi Germany.
He travelled throughout Europe for six years on a journey that took him from Ibiza to Paris and Zurich via Prague. In Ibiza, he became passionate about architecture and photography and created a lengthy narrative, Hyle II, a multilingual novel which is both poetical and semi-biographical. In 1939 he spent the summer in Paris before going to settle with Hedwig in Peyrat-le-Château in the Limousin region of France that autumn, where he spent the war years and met Marthe Prévot.
The post-war years in the Limousin
In 1944 Hausmann moved to Limoges where he lived until his death in 1971. Material difficulties prompted him to return to his artistic work. He renewed correspondence with former members of the avant-garde who had also been in exile, such as Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, former Bauhaus director who had sought exile in the USA and Kurt Schwitters, in England at this time and with whom he shared a project to create a journal, Pin.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Hausmann corresponded with the main protagonists of the new lettrist, situationist and Fluxus movements... He published Courrier Dada and took part in exhibitions at Moma in New York and at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. He continued his experiments in the fields of photography, collage, sound poetry and even in filmed performance (The man who is afraid of bombs).
The Raoul Hausmann resource library
With 700 works and an extensive archive collection (poems, theoretical texts, correspondence, notebooks and photographic negatives), the Raoul Hausmann Resource Library at the Musée d’art contemporain de la Haute-Vienne makes it possible to get an understanding of Raoul Hausmann’s ambitious undertaking and the historical and intellectual background to his work.
In 1993 the museum acquired most of Raoul Hausmann’s correspondence since the 1940s. This collection of 6000 letters predominantly covers a period extending from the post-war years up to the artist’s death in 1971.
It reveals the relationship that Hausmann enjoyed with “historical” avant-gardists (Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Hans Richter, Richard Huelsenbeck, etc.) and the neo-avant-gardists of the 1960s (Dick Higgins, Wolf Vostell, etc.), with galleries and institutions (Musée national d'art moderne, the New York Museum of Modern Art) and with journals, publishers, critics; historians, museum curators etc.
In 1995 these written archives arrived at the museum along with a huge number of other unpublished texts. These texts consist of theoretical texts, poetical texts, drafts, typescripts, notebooks etc and includes files on Dada, Optophonetics, photography ... which reflect Hausmann’s main areas of interest. In 1996 more than 1,200 photographic negatives and contact sheets completed the resource library.
A detailed inventory of the theoretical texts stored at the Musée d’art contemporain de la Haute-Vienne was carried out by Adelheid Koch-Didier and published in 1997.
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