'The Elephant Celebes' and 'Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale' by Max Ernst

Art History: Dadaism in Art (c. 1912s - 1923s)

Dadaism, an avant-garde art movement that emerged during the early 20th century, is a testament to the power of artistic rebellion and unconventional thinking. Born out of a response to the horrors of World War I and a rejection of traditional artistic norms, Dadaism sought to disrupt the established order through its irreverent, nonsensical, and often perplexing artworks. This article delves into the essence of Dadaism, highlights five prominent Dadaist painters, and explores two of their famous paintings each.

Main Art Styles of Dadaism

Dadaism was marked by a rejection of logic, reason, and aesthetic norms. It sought to challenge the prevailing cultural and artistic values of its time through the creation of provocative and thought-provoking works. The movement embraced a range of mediums, including visual art, literature, poetry, and performance. Dadaists often employed techniques such as collage, photomontage, and assemblage to create their unconventional pieces.

Five Famous Dadaist Painters

1. Marcel Duchamp (1887 - 1968)

Marcel Duchamp, a pioneering figure in Dadaism, was known for his conceptual approach to art. His provocative piece, "Fountain" (1917), a urinal signed with the pseudonym "R. Mutt," challenged the very definition of art. In 1919, Duchamp created another masterpiece titled "L.H.O.O.Q.," where he added a mustache and goatee to a postcard of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," turning a revered icon into a playful commentary on art's reverence.

2. Max Ernst (1891 - 1976)

Max Ernst's artistic contributions to Dadaism were characterized by his exploration of automatic drawing and his fascination with the irrational. In 1921, he painted "The Elephant Celebes," a work that defies easy interpretation with its juxtaposition of disparate elements. Another notable piece, "Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale" (1924), offers a nightmarish and dreamlike landscape that embodies the movement's sense of unease.

3. Hannah Höch (1889 - 1978)

Hannah Höch, a pivotal member of Berlin Dada, was a master of photomontage. Her work "Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany" (1919) is a scathing commentary on Weimar society and its political turmoil. In "The Beautiful Girl" (1920), Höch explores themes of gender and identity by deconstructing and reconstructing the image of a woman.

4. Francis Picabia (1879 - 1953)

Francis Picabia's artistic journey within Dadaism was marked by a diverse range of styles. In "Udnie (Young American Girl; Dance)" (1913-14), he embraced abstraction and futurism. However, his more Dadaist work, "The Cacodylic Eye" (1921), challenges viewers with its fragmented and disorienting imagery.

5. Raoul Hausmann (1886 - 1971)

Raoul Hausmann was a key figure in Berlin Dada and a pioneer of photomontage. In his work "Mechanical Head (The Spirit of Our Time)" (1920), he constructed a jarring collage that reflects the increasing mechanization of society. Hausmann's "The Art Critic" (1919-20) is a striking commentary on the art world, where he used newspaper clippings to create a portrait.


Dadaism stands as a testament to the power of artistic defiance and the ability of creativity to challenge societal norms. Through the unconventional works of artists like Duchamp, Ernst, Höch, Picabia, and Hausmann, Dadaism reshaped the boundaries of art, inspiring generations of artists to question, experiment, and break free from traditional constraints. The movement's legacy continues to influence contemporary art, reminding us that sometimes, the most revolutionary ideas emerge from the most unexpected places.


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