artists and art galleries of the world


Art Movements in Art History - Dada

Art Information > Art Movements > Dada

A Chronology of Dada


(Dada has not yet been named, but as with all art movements there are some events which
are retrospectively important. One significant fact is that Dada activities were not restricted
to any city or even one land - they took place internationally.)

The Armoury Exhibition in New York brings European trends to North America. Both
the work of Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia is shown. Picabia goes to New York and
holds an exhibition at Alfred Steiglitz's Gallery "291 ". "291 " later becomes the name of a


Duchamp makes his first readymade, Bicycle wheel. Arthur Cravan continues to publish
Maintenant, although he will stop doing so in the following year. Magazines become an
important vehicle for publishing manifestoes, speeches, statements of principle and articles
as well as illustrations of works. During August the First World War breaks out and
Switzerland as a neutral country becomes a refuge for the Dadaists. Hugo Ball, the German
poet and pacifist, and his wife, Emmy Hennings, go to Zurich.


Picabia and Duchamp go to New York. There Duchamp meets Man Ray and begins the Large
Glass. Hans Arp, Tristan Tzara and Mariel Janco settle in Switzerland.


Zurich -- Richard Huelsenbeck arrives from Berlin. The Cabaret Voltaire, founded by Hugo
Ball, opens on 5 February. At the gala night on 30 March, Huelsenbeck, Janco and Tzara
recite a simultaneous poem of their own making. In April the word Dada is discovered. The
word was chosen at random from a dictionary. The dictionary definition however provides
no explanation of Dada --- other than indirect comment on it, uselessness or irony. A fuller
explanation must be sought elsewhere, in the writings of the Dadaists themselves.

Cubism was a school of painting, Futurism a political movement: Dada is a state of
mind ... . Free-thinking in religion does not resemble a church. Dada is artistic free-
thinking (Andre Breton in Litterature. )

Dada is a state of mind that can be revealed in any conversation whatever ... .
Under certain cicumstances to be a Dadaist may mean to be more a businessman, more
a political partisan than an artist ... to be an artist only by accident ... to be a Dadaist
means to let oneself be thrown by things, to oppose all sedimentation; to sit in a chair
for a single moment is to risk one's life (Richard Huelsenbeck in Collective Dada

Dada is a state of mind. That is why it transforms itself according to races and
events. Dada applies itself to everything, and yet it is nothing, it is the point where the
yes and no and all the opposites meet, not solemnly in the castles of human
philosophies, but very simply at street corners, like dogs and grasshoppers ... . Dada is
a virgin microbe that penetrates with the insistence of air into all the spaces that reason
has not been able to fill with words or conventions (Tristan Tzara in Lecture on Dada,

In June the first and only issue of Cabaret Voltaire appears. In the preface written by
Ball the word Dada is used publicly for the first time. In July Tzara's "The First Celestial
Adventure of Mr Fire Extinguisher" (La Premiere Aventure Celeste de M. Anti Pyrine' )
appears under the Dada imprint. July is also the month of the First Dada soiree. It is an
evening of music, dance, manifestations, poetry readings with displays of costumes and
masks and paintings. Tzara reads the first "Dada Manifesto" (which is reproduced in L
Lippard, Dadas on art). Several other publications appear this year under the Dada imprint
and include such pieces as Huelsenbeck's "Fantastic Prayers", ("Phantastische Gebete") in
September. Arp starts making wood reliefs, automatic drawings, and collages "arranged
according to the laws of chance".

In New York related activities continue with Walter Arensberg's home providing a
meeting place for avant-garde artists and intellectuals. Man Ray starts making collages.
Other events to bear in mind are that this is the year (1916) of Rodin's death. He has
been working throughout the years of this chronology, as have Renoir and Monet.


Paris begins to play a more prominent role in the history of Dada. Andre Breton sees a copy
of the publication Dada at the home of Apollinaire. Picabia arrives in Paris. Other non-Dada
but preSurrealist events occur this year. The first performance of Erik Satie's ballet Parade
takes place in May. The scenario was by Cocteau and the decor and costumes by Picasso.
The programme contains an article by Apollinaire with the first reference to "sur-realisme".
In the following month Apollinaire's play The Breasts of Tiresias (Mamelles de Tiresias)
subtitled a "surrealist drama" has its premiere. It is at this performance that Jaques Vache
dressed as an English officer brandishes a gun during the interval. In Zurich two Dada
exhibitions take place in the Gaterie Corray (later Galerie Dada). Huelsenbeck leaves Zurich
and goes to Berlin where he publishes "Der Neue Mensch" in the magazine Die NeueJugend,
thus preparing the way for Dada.


Apollinaire dies in Paris as the result of a wound received in action at the Front. Both Picabia
and Tzara write memorials to him in Dada 3. Tzara publishes "Manifeste Dada 1918".
Arthur Cravan is seen for the last time in a small town in Mexico; his disappearance lends
itself to Dada interpretations. The writers who will subsequently form the core group of
Surrealists - Elvard, Pavlhan, Aragon, Soupault and Ribemont-Dessaignes - begin to
gather closely around Breton. They become interested in Dada. Breton establishes contact
with De Chirico, whose work provides a prototype for some Surrealist painters during the
1920s. In New York, Duchamp sends his Readymade, an original entitled Fountain and
signed R. Mutt, to the first Annual Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists. It is
rejected. The issue is discussed in several magazines during the year.

Huelsenbeck establishes Dada in Berlin with the founding of the Club Dada in April.
During the first meeting on 12 April, Huelsenbeck reads a manifesto signed by Tzara, Franz
Jung, Grosz, Janco, Preiss, Hausmann, Meiring and himself'. They issue the only publication
of Club Dada. Kurt Schwitters meets Arp, which leads to a closer association with Zurich
Dada. Hausmann and others develop a new typography, extending Futurist ideas. They also
rievelop photo-collage (or photo-montage).


Litterature appears, edited by Aragon, Breton and Soupault. The magazine plays a
significant role as a mouthpiece for Paris Dada and later for Surrealism. In the April and
May issues, Breton writes about his discovery of Isidore Ducasse (the "Comte de
Lautreamont"). The October issues contains "The Magnetic Fields" ("Les Champs
Magnetiques") a collaborative effort by Breton and Soupault exploring automatic writing.
Later, Breton regards this as the first authentic Dada piece.

Duchamp returns to Paris from his years in New York. He and Picabia meet with the
Dada group. Duchamp adjusts a reproduction of the Mona Lisa, adds a moustache and a
beard, and titles it, LHOOQ. In Zurich both Tzara and Arp take part in Dada exhibitions and
soirees. There is still a great deal of Dada activity in Zurich this year. Among the more
important events are Tzara's lecture on "Abstract Art" and Janco's on "Abstract Art and Its
Aims". In April Tzara writes about his simultaneous poem, "Le Fierre du mate", which is
designed to be performed by 20 people. Sophie Tauber makes "Dada heads" from hat

In Berlin, Schwitters holds an exhibition with Paul Klee and Joliannes Molzahn at Der
Sturmgallery. In February the manifesto Dadaisten gegen Weimar appears, and Hausmann
founds the Der Dada review. Some Dada activities take place in Cologne with Ernst and
Baargeld playing a central role. Their address is W/B West Stupidia. In Hanover Schwitters
makes his first collages, books and poem. He publishes Anna Blume, a poem made by
collaging bourgeois sentimental language cliches.


Duchamp returns to New York and, with Katherine Dreier and Man Ray, founds the Societe
Anonyme, which in effect becomes the first museum of modern art in New York. Duchamp
shifts from anti-art activities to those of "engineer".

Tzara goes to Paris, where his arrival is awaited with great excitement. He is introduced
to Paris Dada at the first Friday soiree organised by Litterature. It is at this event that
Breton erases a drawing by Picabia. A great number of events take place. The 23 manifestoes
read during February were subsequently published in the May edition of Litterature. The
magazine puts itself at the services of Dada. There is a Festival of Dada at Salle Gareau on
May 20. Dada 7 appears as "Dadaphone".

In Berlin, Huelsenbeck (who was always more political) directs Dada towards a more
radical political consciousness. Raoul Hausmann, the brothers Herzfelde, Johannes Baader
and Hannah Hoch all participate and George Grosz contributes to the Dada magazine.

Huelsenbeck, Hausmann and Baader organise a Dada tour around Germany. Despite their
politicised position the Dadaists are not well received, the Germans considering them
Bolsheviks and the Socialists considering them reactionaries. Dada Almanack appears, the
last important Dada publication. Arp visits Berlin.

In Cologne during February Die Schammade (Dadameter) is published and edited by
Ernst with contributions from Arp (cover), Aragon, Baargeld, Breton, Huelsenbeck. In April
at Bauhaus Winter a Dada performance - "Dada-Vorfruhling: Gemalde Skulpturen,
Zeichnungen, Fluido Skeptrik, Vulgardilettantismus" -- is organised by Arp, Ernst and
Baargeld. The entrance is through a public urinal. Ernst supplies a hatchet with one object
for the public to destroy. A young girl in a first-communion dress recites obscene poetry.
Police close the exhibition, shocked by Durer's engraving Adam and Eve.

Ernst collaborates with Arp and Baargeld on a series of collages called Fatagaga
(Fabrication de Tableaux Garantis Gazometriques). Rene Magritte holds his first exhibition
in Brussels.


New York - Man Ray invents his Rayographs, and makes Dada objects such as Gift. In July
Man Ray leaves for Paris.

In Paris the first of a series of decisive Dada visits takes place, and the first Paris
exhibition of Ernst collages opens accompanied by a Dada demonstration. On May 13 the
Trial and Sentencing of M Maurice Barres by Dada takes place. Breton is the presiding judge
at this "trial" of the writer Maurice Barres, indicted by the Dadaists for "crime against the
security of the spirit". Picabia disapproves and does not take part. Although Tzara is
critical, he participates as one of the "witnesses" against Barres, who is represented by a
life-size mannequin. This disagreement indicates the beginning of a split within the Dada
group. Picabia renounces Dada in public statements. June 6 to 30 at the Galerie Montaigne
the Salon Dada, Exposition Internationale marks the end of a season ofDada exhibitions and
demonstrations. The last issue of series 1 of Litterature is devoted to the Barres trial.

In Cologne Ernst makes proto-Surrealist paintings (The Elephant Celebes) which
combine collage imagery with elements of De Chirico's style. He makes his first illusionist
collage of old engravings.


During the winter Breton attempts to organise a congress in Paris (International Congress
for the Determination of Directives and for the Defence of the Modern Spirit). Tzara refuses
to participate and Breton attacks him and declares that he is not the founder of Dada. In a
meeting at the Closerie des Lilas (February 17) Breton is asked to account for his attacks on
Tzara; the 45 people present withdraw their confidence from the organising committee for
the Paris Congress. In April Tzara edits a pamphlet, The Bearded Heart. These events
virtually mark the end of the Dada movement.

* Drawn from notes compiled by R. Becker for the University of South Africa | Contact Us | List Your Art | List Your Art Gallery | Site Map

The Art World - Artists, Art Galleries and Art Information Throughout The Art World