HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)
HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)
HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION
HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)

Der Berg

HANNAH HÖCH (1889-1978)
Der Berg
signed and dated 'H.H. 39.' (lower right); signed, inscribed and dated 'HANNAH HÖCH-MATTHIES BERLIN-HEILIGENSEE "Der Berg" 1939' (on the reverse); signed again 'HANNAH HÖCH-MATTHIES' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
29 5/8 x 27 ¾ in. (75.3 x 70.5 cm.)
Painted in 1939
Estate of the artist.
By descent to the present owners.
E. Maurer, Hannah Höch. Jenseits fester Grenzen - Das malerische Werk bis 1945, Berlin, 1995, no. 79, pp. 36, 120 and 261 (illustrated p. 262).
C. Schweitzer, Schrankenlose Freiheit für Hannah Höch, Berlin, 2011, p. 283.
Berlin, Galerie Franz, Hannah Höch, Ölbilder, Zeichnungen, Foto-Montagen, Aquarelle, November - December 1949, no. 15.
Tübingen, Kunsthalle, Hannah Höch: Fotomontagen, Gemälde, Aquarelle, February - May 1980, no. 126, p. 232 (illustrated p. 200).
Stockholm, Konstakademien, Fyra engagerade i Berlin: Käthe Kollwitz, Hannah Höch, Jeanne Mammen, February - March 1982, no. 74, p. 44 (illustrated p. 29).
Berlin, Rathaus-Galerie Reinickendorf, Hannah Höch 1889-1978. Ausstellung zum 100. Geburtstag: Ölbilder, Aquarelle, Collagen, Zeichnungen, October - December 1989, no. 11; this exhibition later travelled to Soltau, Stadt Museum, January - February 1990.
Gotha, Schloß Friedenstein, Hannah Höch, August - November 1993, no. 116, pp. 158 & 190 (illustrated p. 174).
Murnau, Schloßmuseum, Hannah Höch: Collagen, Aquarelle, Gemälde, July - October 1994, p. 23.
Tübingen, Kulturhalle and Künstlerbund, Hannah Höch. Werden und Vergehen, Natur und Mensch, February - March 2012, pp. 77-81 (illustrated p. 80).
Dusseldorf, Galerie Remmert und Barth, Hannah Höch. Frau und Saturn, September - November 2013, no. 62, p. 92 (illustrated p. 93).
Stade, Kunsthaus Stade, Vorhang auf für Hannah Höch, November 2015 - February 2016, no. 29, p. 52 (illustrated).
Mannheim, Kunsthalle, Hannah Höch: Revolutionärin der Kunst. Das Werk nach 1945, April - August 2016, pp. 220 and 235 (illustrated p. 219); this exhibition later travelled to Mülheim, September 2016 - January 2017.
Apolda, Kunsthaus Apolda Avantgarde, Hannah Höch. Flora Vitalis, July - September 2017, no. 64, p. 84 (illustrated).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Further details
We are grateful to Dr Ralf Burmeister and to Dr Ellen Maurer for their assistance in cataloguing this work.

Brought to you by

Olivier Camu
Olivier Camu Deputy Chairman, Senior International Director

Lot Essay

Painted in 1939, the enigmatic Der Berg (The Mountain) emerged during a period of deep turmoil and angst in Hannah Höch’s life. For much of the decade, the artist had been unable to show her work publicly in Germany due to the restrictive cultural policies of the National Socialist party, and in 1937 she was among the group of avant-garde artists vilified as ‘cultural bolshevists’ in Wolfgang Willrich’s publication Säuberung des Kunsttempels (The Cleansing of the Temple of Art), which would provide the framework for the notorious Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition later that year. To avoid persecution during the Third Reich, Höch moved from central Berlin to the quiet rural suburb of Heiligensee, where her past artistic affiliations remained unknown to her neighbours. Here, Höch entered a period of artistic and social isolation, keeping her rich archive of DADA ephemera and artworks hidden in her house, all the while continuing to paint and create photomontages under the radar of the authorities. ‘I often wonder how I managed to survive that dreadful reign of terror,’ she later said. ‘When I now look back, I’m surprised by my own courage or irresponsibility in preserving in my home all the “subversive” Dada art and literature… But it never occurred to me, until it was all over, that I could still be considered a dangerous revolutionary…’ (E. Roditi, Dialogues: Conversations with European Artists at Mid-Century, San Francisco, 1990, p. 74).

While the Pittura Metafisica of Giorgio de Chirico had been an important inspiration for Höch since the early 1920s onwards, it was during this period of tension, uncertainty and fear that she fully embraced the Surrealist idiom in her painting, discovering in it a path to artistic freedom amid the ‘nightmarish’ atmosphere of the ‘illusory world of National Socialism’ (quoted in The Photomontages of Hannah Höch, exh. cat., Minneapolis, 1996, p. 17). In Der Berg, Höch examines the universal and timeless theme of the cycle of life through the metaphor of a mountain hike – several figures are seen at different stages of climbing the steep, stark mountain, their slender, simple forms appearing almost doll-like in their anonymity. While some take the clearly delineated path, traversing the mountainside along an established, predetermined route, others look for more direct shortcuts to the top, such as the figure clinging to the cliff-face. At the summit, a lone figure stands tall, their body basking in the bright sunlight of the distant star that hangs in the sky, while to the right, a stream of figures are seen descending from the peak, heading towards a dark cave in the mountainside, where they will disappear.

Höch signifies the different ages of her humanoid characters through a nuanced treatment of body language and pose – while the figures on the left of the composition seem filled with youthful vigour and energy, boldly racing through the initial stages of the climb, the characters descending the shadowy slope and entering the cave are hunched over, their movements slow and careful as they navigate the treacherous path. This progression of time and life is echoed in the foreground of the painting, where three botanical elements are clustered together, their forms illustrating different stages of their lifecycle, from the lush beauty of the bright red flower in full bloom, to the pale blue leaves of a plant on the brink of withering, and the bare, lifeless tree at the centre, completely uprooted from the soil and ready to be discarded. While the doll-like figures and rock formations of the mountain, reminiscent of wrinkled leather, also appear in Höch’s cover designs for Victor Witte’s 1938 adventure novel Der Berg Lichtes, in Der Berg the artist explores profound questions about humanity and the journey of life, at a time when the chaos and turmoil of German politics and the impending war placed such certainties in peril.

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