May 11, 2021

Feminism in Modern & Contemporary Art 2 | Avant Garde, Dada, Surrealism

The Female Avant-Gardists & the New Woman

Lucia Moholy 1894-1989

Profile of her husband Laszlo Moholy-Nagy superimposed on top of her (the wife) using double exposure. She’s in the background, him in the foreground, his identity superimposed onto her.

Hannah Hoch 1889-1978 (Dada)

Photomontage and embroidery (Dada Dolls)

In the piece Da-Dandy above the women have had cut out eyes placed over their own (perhaps to show another persons eyes/view/vision) and the three women are placed within a silhouette of a man. She expressed that the new woman was often an object of men’s fantasies but men fundamentally didn’t want women to change. She often subverted men’s masculinity in her photomontage, questioning the seriousness of them.

New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit)

Later than Dada 1920s. They rejected expressionism, returning to realism – though often distorted.
George Grosz, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann

In photography – objective viewpoint & documentary aesthetic – August Sander

Otto Dix – Portrait of Journalist Sylvia Von Harden

Jeanne Mammem

Bruderstrasse (Free Room) 1930
Boring Dolls 1929
At the shooting Gallery
Sie reprasentiert (She Represents – Carnival Scene)


Art in service of revolution.
Texture & Material Properties
Building Society/Creating it

Suprematism – art outside of social context.


Influences of Marxism
Revolution – break from the past
Sur-real – excess/intensification of reality

Automation – unconscious process – like breathing and dreaming
Found objects

Dora Marr

Picasso’s muse
Fashion photographer. Collage & photomontage
Shadows & Angles
Unexpected Juxtaposition
Woman as something to aspire to

Meret Oppenheim

Fur Objects
Subverted Phallic sculpture “Fur Breakfast”
“My Nurse” – shoes trussed up like a turkey – fetishised, tied up (woman on back with legs in the air)
thighs squeezed together in pleasure – an invitation. Power, dominance, female sexuality.

Recommended Reading Notes

Rozell, Harlee, 2017. “Casting the ‘New Woman’ in the Weimar Republic, 1919-33” in Georgetown Journal of History.

Pandora’s box – femme fatale 1929 movie
End of WWI women granted suffrage = New Woman
Negative stereotypes, public anxiety, female independence & male identity. A threat. 
Women both masculine and hyper sexualised and unromantic.
Structural and legal inequalityWork thought of as less suitable for mothers/wives
“Think of the future of your children” propaganda
Movies – femme fatale, selfish, she learns her lesson and returns to the “moral woman”.
”Perhaps glamour isn’t all that important after all.“
Art trend – lust murders – Otto Dix and George Grosz – violent deaths of women at the hands of men.
Portrait of the journalist Sylvia Von Harden

Short article by Thomas Baldwin on Hannah Hoch and ‘New Woman’ Depictions of and challenges to the New Woman in Hannah Hochs photomontage

– cubism and futurism after WWI
– Performance and experimentation
– disbanded in 1922
George GroszJohn HeartfieldWeil and HerzfeldeJohannesburg BadgerRahul Haussmann
Hoch and Haussmann invented photomontage
Book of new women juxtaposed against cultural images of African women, bailanese children and Japanese sumo to show the context of New Women against other cultures. Is there anything that “new” about it?
Objects (female body parts), obelisks with legs, men ogling.

Paris – Dessau: Marianne Brandt & the new woman in photomontage & photography from Garconne to Bauhaus Constructivist

Elizabeth Otto’s article  “Paris—Dessau: Marianne Brandt’s New Women in Photomontage and Photography, from Garçonne to Bauhaus Constructivist” in The New Woman International: Representations in Photography and Film from the 1870s through the 1960s by Elizabeth Otto and Vanessa Rocco (eds), foreword by Linda Nochlin. University of Michigan Press, 2011, pp. 153-171.

She studied at Bauhaus
Used media and aesthetics previously reserved for men
Focus – private emotions, public spaces, national and personal identity.
Andreas Hyyssen’s essay on gender, modernism, mass culture and representation.
Brandt broke down the cultural gender divide.
Mas media – avant garde photomontage
Women’s strengths – developed powers of observation and perception
Link between travel and representation
Combining feminine and technological elements
Pariser Impressionen – most famous montage
She included her husbands affair in her montage work.
Strong connection to New Vision

A brief history of Dada

Before WWI. – Picasso’s cubism
Duchamp rejected all painting because it was made for the eye, not the mind. 
New irrational art movement – in response to the senseless war.
Confusion about the war, nothing much made sense.
Men have been mistaken for machines. Modern media, science and technology influence.
Pointing hand – pointless gesture.
Crippled veterans & prosthetics
Nude performance

Resources Referred to during the lecture or read as homework:

  • Manifestoes of Futurism, Cubism, Dada, Suprematism, Constructivism and Surrealism in Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Edited by Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Oxford and Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1992, pp. 145-152, 152-154, 178-183, 248-255, 290-292, 308-318, 432-439, 450-454. [attached at the end]
  • Short introduction to Niki De Saint Phalle retrospective in Grand Palais Departement Audiovisuel et Multimedia, France, 2014.