The Bröhan Museum in Berlin is exhibiting a work by the German artist Hannah Höch (1889-1978) from the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut. Höch is best known for her political and feminist Dadaist collages. Hannah Höch spent several years in the Netherlands, an important period in her personal and professional life. The traces of these relationships can be found in various archives in the collection.
The Visual Art Collection
The National Collection has loaned a collage to the retrospective exhibition Hannah Höch: Millions of Views. The collage, depicting the universe with an eye, belongs to a somewhat atypical subdivision within the collection: the Visual Art Collection. It consists primarily of drawings from the estate of architect and urban planner Cornelis van Eesteren and includes works by Karel Appel, César Domela, Vilmos Huszár, Fernand Léger, Lázló Moholy Nagy and Karl Moser. It also contains several objects by the Dutch visual artist and architect Bruno Mertens.
Höch developed the technique of photocollage together with Raoul Hausmann, whom she met in 1915. Through him, she became acquainted with Kurt Schwitters, John Heartfield and other members of the Berlin Dada group, a circle of mainly male artists who were critics of German culture in the period following the First World War. In 1919, Höch made her most important work of that period, entitled Schnitt mit dem Küchenmesser Dada durch die letzte weimarer Bierbauchkulturepoche Deutschlands (Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife Through Weimar Germany’s Last Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch). The work depicts the chaos of this era, with cut-out portraits of the deposed Kaiser Wilhelm II; Germany’s first president, Friedrich Ebert; army general and future president, Paul von Hindenburg; and banker, economist and politician, Hjalmar Schacht. Portraits of some of the Dadaist artists appear between cogs, ball bearings, wheels, animals, athletes and dancers. The collage also has a feminist theme. It features images of Greta Garbo, Käthe Kollwitz and other emancipated women, and it contains a map of Europe showing in black those countries where women were still not allowed to vote.
Höch’s work garnered critical acclaim despite the patronising views of her male peers. In a 1959 interview, she said: “Most of our male colleagues continued for a long while to look upon us as charming and gifted amateurs, denying us implicitly any real professional status.” Hannah Höch in Edouard Roditi, ‘Interview with Hannah Höch’, Arts Magazine, vol. 34, no. 3 (Dec. 1959): p.29. Via: https://www.moma.org/artists/2675
Contacts with Dutch artists
Hannah Höch spent several years in the Netherlands, an important period in her personal and professional life. The traces of these relationships can be found in various archives in the collection. In 1926, at Schwitters’ invitation, she stayed in Kijkduin, where she met old and new friends including Vilmos Huszár, Cornelis van Eesteren, Johannes Oud and Theo and Nelly van Doesburg. She fell in love with the writer and linguist Mathilda (Til) Brugman and lived with her in The Hague. During her stay in the Netherlands, she also befriended the architect, Jan Buijs. The National Collection contains a collection of letters that Buijs wrote to Höch and Tilman, later supplemented with copies of 23 letters and postcards to Höch from Jan Buijs, Theo van Doesburg and the architect Han van Loghem.
The war years
In 1929, Höch had her first solo exhibition at a gallery called De Bron (The Source) in The Hague. At the end of that year, Höch and Tilman moved to Berlin. The cultural climate she encountered in Germany would not have been to her liking. A planned exhibition of her work at the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1932 was cancelled when the school was closed by the Nazi-dominated local council. After Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, Höch was unable to exhibit her work, which the Nazis perceived as Entartete Kunst (degenerate art), until after the Second World War. She maintained contacts in the Netherlands, however, and exhibited at Kunstzaal d’Audretsche in 1934 and 1935.
Hanna Höch spent the war years in seclusion in a small house on the outskirts of Berlin, where she lived until her death. Her isolation enabled her to continue working and to keep her work and that of her friends safe from the Nazis. As Chris Rehorst has written in the art journal Jong Holland, the Nazis “were apparently unaware that hidden beneath the neatly kept flower beds was a treasure trove of entartete kunst in large shipping cases.” Chris Rehorst, ‘Hannah Höch en Nederland’, Jong Holland, vol 4 (1988), no. 6.
After the war, Höch had less contact with her friends in the Netherlands. The last letter in the archives from Buijs, who died in 1961, dates from 1954. As Rehorst noted, Nelly van Doesburg was the only one who continued to write to her. Most of her friends from her Dutch period had already died. Only Cornelis van Eesteren was present when Höch was awarded an honorary professorship by the city of Berlin in 1977.
The exhibition Hannah Höch: Millions of Views brings together more than 120 works, some of which have never before been exhibited in public. It can be seen at the Bröhan Museum in Berlin from 16 February to 15 May 2022 and at the Museum im Kulturspeicher in Würzburg from 11 June to 4 September 2022.
Archives in the National Collection
Visual Art Collection (BKVE)
Brugman, T. (Til) & Höch, H. (Hannah) (& J.W.E. Buijs) collection (BRUG).
C.J.F. Karsten archive (KARS) correspondence with Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Höch.
Collages and screen prints by Gerard van Zeijl
Het Nieuwe Instituut has recently acquired the archive of Gerard van Zeijl (1940-2017), former professor at Eindhoven University of Technology. In addition to documentation relating to his design practice and teaching career, the archive also features fine art, including several surprising collages and screen prints from the period 1963-78.
The Dutch Bauhaus Network
Het Nieuwe Instituut has loaned more than seventy objects from the State Archive of Dutch Archticture and Urban Planning to the exhibition netherlands <> bauhaus – pioneers of a new world, which opens at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen on 9 February. The loan includes works by Johan Niegeman (1902-1977), Cornelis van Eesteren (1897-1988), Mathieu Lauweriks (1864-1932) and Lotte Stam-Beese (1903-1988).