HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)
HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)
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HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)

Das schöne Mädchen (The Beautiful Girl)

HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)
Das schöne Mädchen (The Beautiful Girl)
initialed and dated 'HH 1920' (lower right); signed, dated and inscribed 'DAS SCHÖNE MÄDCHEN HANNAH HÖCH 20.' (on the artist's mount); signed again, dated and inscribed ‘Hannah Höch „Das schöne Mädchen“ Fotomontage 1920 Leihgabe H. Höch’ (on the artist's label affixed to the reverse of the mount)
photomontage on paper laid down on the artist’s mount
Sheet: 14 x 11 ½ (35.5 x 29.2 cm.)
Artist's mount: 14 7⁄8 x 12 1⁄8 in. (37.8 x 31 cm.)
Executed circa 1920
Private collection, North Germany, by whom acquired from the artist via the intermediation of Galerie Nierendorf, Berlin, after 1961 and before 1965, and thence by descent to the present owners.
G. J. Dech, Schnitt mit dem Küchenmesser DADA, Münster, 1981, no. XXXIX/1 (illustrated).
H. Bergius, Das Lachen DADA, Berlin, 1989, p. 142 (illustrated).
M. Lavin, Cut with the Kitchen Knife, The Weimar Photomontages of Hannah Höch, London, 1993, no. 29, pp. x & 45 (illustrated p. 45; dated ‘1919-1920’).
R. Kuenzli, DADA, New York, 2006, p. 106 (illustrated).
R. Hemus, DADA'S Women, New Haven & London, 2009, fig. 43, pp. 106, 109 & 111 (illustrated p. 110; dated '1919-20').
M. Waldmeier, K. Makholm & H. Höch, Hannah Höch: Assembled Worlds, Bern, 2023. p. 160.
Stuttgart, Städtische Ausstellungshallen, Film und Foto: Internationale Ausstellung des Deutschen Werkbunds, May – July 1929, no. 331.
Berlin, Galerie Gerd Rosen, Fotomontage von Dada bis heute, December 1946 – January 1947.
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Dada: 1916–1923, April – May 1953, no. 126.
Düsseldorf, Kunsthalle, DADA, Dokumente einer Bewegung, September – October 1958, no. 410.
Vienna, Europäisches Forum Alpbach, Dada bis heute, August – September 1965, no. 91; this exhibition later travelled to Linz, Neue Galerie der Stadt, September – October 1965; and Graz, Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, October – November 1965.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, The machine as seen at the end of the mechanical age, November 1968 – February 1969, p. 117 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Houston, University of St. Thomas, March – May 1969; and San Francisco, Museum of Art, June – August 1969.
Berlin, Akademie der Künste, Hannah Höch, Collagen aus den Jahren 1916-1971, May – July 1971, no. 10, p. 74; this exhibition later travelled to Düsseldorf, Kunsthalle, October – November 1971.
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Hannah Höch: Collages, Peintures, Aquarelles, Gouaches, Dessins, January – March 1976, no. 64, p. 65 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Berlin, Nationalgalerie, March – May 1976.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Malerei und Photographie im Dialog, von 1840 bis heute, May – July 1977, no. 660, p. 283 (illustrated p. 282; dated ‘1919’).
Berlin, Staatsgalerie, Tendenzen der Zwanziger Jahre, August – October 1977, no. 3/610, p. 3/248 (illustrated).
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris - Berlin 1900-1933, July – November 1978, no. 139 (illustrated).
Tübingen, Kunsthalle, Fotomontagen, Gemälde, Aquarelle, February – May 1980, p. 85 (illustrated).
Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, Automobile and Culture, July 1984 – January 1985, p. 85 (illustrated).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, German Art in the 20th Century, Painting and Sculpture 1905-1985, October – December 1985, no. 136 (illustrated; dated ‘1919/20’); this exhibition later travelled to Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, February – April 1986.
Berlin, Berlinische Galerie, Hannah Höch: ihr Werk, ihr Leben, ihre Freunde, November 1989 – January 1990, p. 164 (illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, High & Low, Modern Art & Popular Culture, October 1990 – January 1991, no. 46, pp. 260 & 459 (illustrated p. 260); this exhibition later travelled to Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, February – May 1991; and Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, June – September 1991.
Minneapolis, Walker Art Centre, The Photomontages of Hannah Höch, October 1996 – February 1997, no. 9, p. 34 (illustrated; dated ‘1919-1920’); this exhibition later travelled to New York, The Museum of Modern Art, February – May 1997; and Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, June – September 1997.
Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Puppen, Körper, Automaten - Phantasmen der Moderne, July – October 1999, pp. 318 & 480 (illustrated p. 318).
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, DADA, October 2005 – January 2006, no. 343, p. 574 (illustrated fig. 6, p. 493; dated ‘circa 1919-1920’); this exhibition later travelled to Washington, National Gallery of Art, February – May 2006; and New York, The Museum of Modern Art, June – September 2006.
Further Details
Dr. Ralf Burmeister has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

Created in 1920, Das schöne Madchen illustrates the radical, provocative power of Hannah Höch’s early photomontages, which cemented her reputation as one of the most revolutionary female artists of the twentieth century. Höch pioneered the technique of photomontage alongside Raoul Hausmann, who had first introduced her to Berlin’s artistic avant-garde during the First World War. While holidaying on the Baltic coast in 1918, the pair became fascinated by the popular local practice of collaging photographs of loved ones on to ready-made scenes, most often soldiers whose heads were cut out and placed atop a generic, uniformed body as a memento. These strange portraits sparked the artists’ imaginations, and both Höch and Hausmann began to explore the potentials of the process on their return to Berlin, eschewing traditional materials of art-making entirely and instead using ready-made photographic images cut from the pages of illustrated magazines, newspapers and advertising. The technique, which was quickly embraced by their fellow Dada artists, transformed clichéd representations of daily life and contemporary culture into profoundly modern artworks, whose dynamic content challenged the status quo of German politics and society. Höch was at the very forefront of the evolution of the medium, and through the late teens and early 1920s she created a series of highly sophisticated, groundbreaking images that subverted and skewered the tropes of the mass-media from a distinctly feminine perspective.
One of Höch’s most famous and iconic photomontages from this revolutionary period, Das schöne Madchen takes aim at the modern representations of women that proliferated through German society during these years. Cutting, snipping, and slicing images from an array of print sources, she turns the idea of a traditional portrait of a beautiful young woman, as suggested by the title, on its head. At the heart of the composition is an elegantly quaffed, bobbed head of hair, carefully cut out to preserve the shape and style of the hair-do, which looms large above all the other elements in the scene. The face of its owner, however, has been deliberately removed and filled by a snippet of a magazine advertisement, while below a woman in a swimsuit poses with a parasol, her head similarly replaced by the image of a lightbulb. Indeed, only one female face is visible within the scene, that of the figure in the upper right-hand corner who gazes out at the viewer, one of her eyes almost comically enlarged, plucked from another source and pasted over her features. The women are surrounded by symbols of mechanisation and modernity – the swimsuit-clad figure appears to be perched atop an industrial bench or I-beam, while an enormous tyre and a crank shaft flank her on either side. Perhaps most strikingly, however, Höch arranges dozens of perfectly circular BMW logos of varying sizes across the composition, layering the insignia in a dynamic pattern that serves as a colourful, graphic backdrop to the other carefully arranged elements within the photomontage.
Playing with scale and the materiality of her various source imagery, leaving the cuts, junctures and joins of her collage fully visible to the viewer, Höch highlights the constructed, fragmented nature of the image she has created. In this way, she deliberately challenges the legibility of these familiar advertising and magazine graphics, divorcing them from their original context and reordering the imagery in such a way that the viewer is forced to reconsider not only the objective truth of the photograph, but also the underlying messaging behind these sources. In Das schöne Madchen, for example, Höch delivers an insightful critique of the ways in which the female body was presented in fashion magazines and contemporary advertising, marketed to audiences as a commercial product in much the same way as an automobile. In particular, her use of machine-imagery throughout the composition shines a spotlight on the ways in which the media constructed, manufactured and manipulated the image of the Neue Frau, or New Woman – a Weimar feminist ideal that trumpeted financial, political and sexual liberation for women in the years following the First World War – for commercial profit. ‘For me,’ Höch later explained, ‘art has always been a means for making statements, including criticisms’ (quoted in R. Hemus, Dada’s Women, 2009, New Haven and London, p. 105).

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