The Art Critic 1919-20 by Raoul Hausmann 1886-1971


Raoul Hausmann and other members of Berlin’s Dada movement had become disgusted with the more traditional art styles and the lifestyles that they represented. In 1919, Hausmann expressed his disapproval through a photomontage entitled The Art Critic. The piece challenges the idea of the traditional art critic as well as a critic’s motivations and qualifications for deciding what is fashionable or acceptable art. The art critic also can be interpreted as a representation of society as a whole at this time. Hausmann did not agree with the superficiality and lack of individuality found in the Weimar Republic. He also was against the influence of money, especially in a capitalistic society. Hausmann supported new, different forms of art. He did not like the bias of critics toward the traditional styles. The Art Critic incorporates a rather chaotic organization of photographs and cutouts to express these feelings.

The central subject of Hausmann’s work is obviously an art critic. He uses what appears to be a cut out of man with head that is much too large. The man is identified as George Grosz. Grosz, who was a fellow member of the Dada movement, plays the role of the art reporter. [1] His name is stamped onto the photo, yet it is crossed out. The man’s eyes and mouth are sloppy and cartoonish, drawn with colored pencil on small pieces of paper. He is holding an extremely large pencil. There are two smaller subjects, a woman and the shape of a man cut out of a newspaper.

Like other members of the Dada movement, Hausmann was undermining the usual cultural values through his works of art. The art critic is one of the people that have an influence on deciding these values. Therefore, Hausmann wanted to show the people that he was more influential than he should be. By distorting the appearance of the critic, Hausmann is showing that the critic’s opinions are also distorted and irrelevant. The eyes of the art critic, drawn on paper, cannot properly see art as they should. The critic only sees what he thinks the woman to the right, a member of high society, wants him to see. Therefore, whatever comes out of his mouth is unimportant and untrue to Hausmann. The letters in the background, like the words of the critic, are loud and incomprehensible. Hausmann chose to make the pencil so large because it shows how much power the critic has. The pencil is the art critic’s weapon. He can write whatever he chooses. Interpreting art is subjective and Hausmann believed that no man should be qualified to determine what art is good or bad.

Hausmann also thought that the upper class had too much power, as well. In the work, the critic has a triangular piece of money seemingly sticking out of his back. This is how Hausmann portrays the man as a slave to the rich and their money. He always has money in the back of his mind. The newspaper cutout on the right side contains words pertaining to money, as well. The words come from the business section of the paper and relate to commerce.[2] Hausmann was against a commercial society. He did not like for those with money to have a great amount of control, whether it be of art or other aspects of society.

The entirety of The Art Critic makes a mockery of what critics would traditionally claim to be fine art. The piece is far from the usual German form of Expressionism. It contains cut outs and random words. Some parts are hand drawn. The placement of objects seems arbitrary. Even Hausmann’s choice of color for the background is unusual. Everything about The Art Critic is out of the ordinary. Hausmann chooses to ignore traditional aesthetically pleasing aspects of art. Because it is so different, Hausmann is able to make his point that art does not have to be created to please any one person or group. Art is a creation of the individual. Art comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. And most important to Hausmann, new styles of art should be accepted without bias.

[1] Dietmar Elger, Dadaism (Los Angleles: Taschen, 2004), 36.

[2] Elger, 36.

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