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Dove Was Right 1926 dada artwork by Max Ernst

Dove Was Right 1926

Known Names Dadaism
Influencers Jean Arp, also known as Hans Arp
Hugo Ball

(Top Image: “The Sound of Silence 1943-1944” by Max Ernst)

Dada, also referred to as Dadaism, arose from an informal movement of European artists who used found materials and abstract forms in an effort to distance themselves from the establishment and remove the boundaries between artistic expression and everyday life.


Dadaism began in Zurich in 1916 as a reaction to the horror and chaos of World War I. A group of artists and intellectuals began to gather at the Cabaret Voltaire, a salon established by writer Hugo Ball. These artists began to rebel against the rationalist philosophy that was dominant in art and intellectual discourse at the time and that they believed had contributed to the start of the war. To do this, they experimented with nontraditional materials, daring language, and lewd or offensive performance art in order to shock the audience out of complacency. For example, Marcel Duchamp’s famous painting L.H.O.O.Q. is a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa with a beard and mustache added to the subject’s face. In addition, the title can be read as a vulgar phrase in French, implying that the work’s artistic value is a social construct. Dadaists worked in several major cities, including Berlin, Hannover, Paris, and Cologne. In Berlin and Cologne, the artists used their work to make strong political statements. John Heartfield and Rudolf Schlichter’s work Prussian Archangel, a sculpture of a pig wearing a military uniform and suspended from the ceiling, was notorious enough that the artists were charged with defaming the German army, although they were later acquitted of those charges. Berlin artists also pioneered the use of photomontage, in which a variety of cut-out photographs are used to form a larger picture. In the United States, where New York was the hub of the Dada movement, the artists tended to be a little more playful with their work, focusing on forms and social commentary rather than the sharp political overtones of their European counterparts. Dada is widely credited as one of the first movements to rebel against the traditional schools of art, paving the way for movements like Surrealism and Pop Art in the future.

Ideas that influenced this art movement hailed from Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism and Constructivism. Its output forms consisted of painting, poetry, photography, performance art, sculpture and collage. Dadaists mocked subjects, especially the art establishment. One artist described the art movement as “nothing.” “Nothing” as in no purpose or grand idea, other than to oppose bourgeois culture. In fact, artists were against enshrining the movement itself. “Dada is anti-Dada” was the standard slogan. Dadaists were concerned with technological advancements, in response to the believed rationale that led to World War I. In 1924, surrealism began to overtake Dadaism and the art movement dissipated. 


  • Untitled (Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance) by Jean Arp (also known as Hans Arp), 1916-1917
  • La Nuit Espagnole by Francis Picabia, 1922
  • Fountain by Marcel Duchamp, 1917
  • Picture with Spatial Growths by Kurt Schwitters, 1920 and 1939
  • Study for Man and Machine by Hannah Hoch, 1921

Fun Facts

  • Dadaism is often referred to as anti-art, a term coined by the Dadaists themselves due to their goal of breaking down the formal and traditional schools of art.
  • One artist, Sophie Taeuber, put on puppet shows with marionettes made of abstract shapes. Her shows satirized the then-growing field of psychology and Freudian psychoanalysis.

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  • Max Ernst
  • Joan Miro


Some Examples of Dada Artwork

Fruhling dada artwork by Max Ernst


The Malady of Love c. 1916 dada artwork by George Grosz

The Malady of Love c. 1916

Voliere 1919 dada artwork by Man Ray

Voliere 1919