Dadaism – an International Movement for Radical Artistic Revolt

The movement was initiated in 1915 by European and American artists and writers. In 1916, during the First World War, an international artistic group was formed in Zurich (Switzerland), including Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, Hugo Ball, Richard Huelsenbeck, Hans Arp and others. Cabaret Voltaire became the group’s first headquarters. It was there that the word ‘dada’ was coined for the first time, which was later adopted to denote the entire movement.

Dadaism was a spontaneous protest against the reality: against bloody war, hypocrisy of bourgeois systems, an empty phraseology and a commercialization of art. Its main feature was an anti-racialist and anti-aesthetic attitude and a strong negation of the existing forms of social life and culture resulting from the feeling of the collapse of civilization. In the fight against this cruel world, the Dadaists put forward slogans of an anarchy, a total negation and a drastic mockery. In their actions, an extreme individualism, unbridled fantasy and ingenuity emerged. The hoax, an arranged ‘accident’, provocations and the desire to cause a scandal were to directly affect the viewer and to force them to act.

Grand opening of the first Dada exhibition: International Dada Fair, Berlin, 5 June 1920. The central figure hanging from the ceiling was an effigy of a German officer with a pig’s head. From left to right: Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch (sitting), Otto Burchard, Johannes Baader, Wieland Herzfelde, Margarete Herzfelde, Dr. Oz (Otto Schmalhausen), George Grosz and John Heartfield. Anonymous author (1920). Public domain. Photo and caption source: “Dada” (2021). Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.

The Swiss group of Dadaists developed a lively and multidirectional activity. From 1917, art exhibitions, lectures and Dada evenings were organized. In 1917, two issues of the Dada periodical were also published, and in 1919, Der Zeltweg was printed. In 1918, Francis Picabia came to Europe; he largely contributed to the bonding of individual Dadaist groups. In Berlin, where some symptoms of Dadaism appeared as early as in 1916, the Dadaists were directly involved in political struggle, which was favoured by the atmosphere of the revolution. The Dada club was established there, together with many ephemeral magazines and other publications, such as Der blutige Ernst, Hedermann sein eigner Fussball. Additionally, the Almanach Dada (1920) was published and exhibitions were organized, among which there was the First International Dada Fair (1920). Johannes Baader, Richard Huelsenbeck, Jhon Heartfield, George Grosz, Hannah Höch, Raoul Hausmann, Hand Richter and Rudolf Schlichter were active there.

Kurt Schwitters, the founder of Merz-paintings, developed a very individual variety of Dadaism in Hanover. Another important center of German Dadaism was Cologne, which was then occupied by the French. This was the field of activity of Max Ernst, Hans Arp and Johannes Theodor Baargeld. The journals Der Ventilator and Die Schammade were published there. An exhibition at Winter’s beer hall (1920) ended in a scandal and was finally closed by the police. In 1922 Max Ernst left for Paris and the group of the Dadaists ceased to exist. Consequently, most of the old ‘dada’ members joined the Surrealist movement, whose main center was established in Paris.

Feature image: Dada artists, group photograph, 1920, Paris. From left to right, Back row: Louis Aragon, Theodore Fraenkel, Paul Eluard, Clément Pansaers, Emmanuel Fay (cut off). Second row: Paul Dermée, Philippe Soupault, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes. Front row: Tristan Tzara (with monocle), Celine Arnauld, Francis Picabia, André Breton. hAnonymous authot (1920). Anonymous – Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa Tongarewa). Public domain. Photo and caption source: “Dada” (2021). Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.


“Dadaizm” (2020). In: Wikipedia. Wolna Encyklopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed 22nd February, 2021].

“Dada” (2021). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed 22nd February, 2021].

Barucki T. et al. (2009). “Dadaism”. In: Sztuka świata. Leksykon A-K, tom 12. [Historia del Arte, vol. 12], p. 175. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Arkady.

PWN (2007). Słownik terminologiczny sztuk pięknych, p. 82. Kubalska-Sulkiewicz K., Bielska-Łach M., Manteuffel-Szarota A. eds. Wydanie piąte. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN.

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