The Learning Series: Modern Art Movements, Exploring Dadaism

Dadaism is a cultural and artistic movement that originated in Europe during the early 20th century (1916 to 1925) and is a significant part of the Modern Art Period. This movement is often associated with a sense of rebellion, subversion, and anarchy, and it had a significant impact on art and society. Dadaism is defined by its rejection of traditional artistic techniques and values, embracing instead a spirit of irrationality, humor, and anti-establishment where Dadaists often incorporated found objects and combined them in unexpected ways to create provocative and nonsensical art. 

Dadaism emerged in the wake of World War I, during a time of political turmoil and social upheaval. It began in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916, when a group of artists and intellectuals, including Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball, and Jean Arp, formed a collective called “Cabaret Voltaire.” The group aimed to challenge traditional cultural norms and values through their art, literature, and performance.

Dadaist artists often incorporated found objects, such as trash or everyday items, into their art, using them in unexpected and subversive ways. The movement rejected the idea of art as a commodity and embraced a more democratic approach, where anyone could create and express themselves. In terms of technique, Dadaists often used unconventional methods, such as photomontage or ready-made objects, to challenge traditional ideas about art. The resulting works often have a sense of spontaneity and chaos, using a variety of materials and techniques to create a nonsensical or provocative effect.


Some examples of iconic artworks associated with Dadaism include Hannah Höch’s “The Fashion Show” (1923), which features a photomontage of various fashion models in a nonsensical and absurd display; Raoul Hausmann’s “The Art Critic” (1919-1920), which depicts a grotesque figure made up of machine parts and objects; and Francis Picabia’s “Optophone” (1922), a machine-like sculpture made up of various objects and symbols. These works and many others had a significant impact on modern art and society, challenging traditional ideas about women, beauty, and culture.

The Dada movement had a profound effect on politics, as Dadaists were often outspoken critics of authoritarianism and nationalism. The movement’s anti-establishment stance and embrace of the absurd directly challenged the societal values and cultural norms that had contributed to the First World War. The movement’s influence can still be seen today in contemporary art, where its spirit of subversion and experimentation continues to inspire artists around the world.

One of the defining characteristics of Dadaism is the rejection of traditional artistic techniques and values, in favor of a more irrational and anti-establishment approach.

If you’re interested in learning more about this movement, or acquiring works from Dadaism artists whether Modern (1860 – 1975) or the contemporary era (living artists) schedule a consultation with us. 

Written by Lo Sampadian