Dada, Surrealism and Bauhaus


  • Dada was an artistic movement that protested against  World War I
  • This was an international movement which included many artists whose beliefs were similar to those of Marxists, theorising that the upper classes used ideological tools (such as the war) to control and oppress the rest of society.
  • Practitioners of Dada claim their work to be anti- art, rather than art. “For everything that art stood for, Dada was to represent the opposite”
  • “Dada is what you can make out of yourself” Hausmann, 1968
  • Dada used a range of mediums including collage, sculpture and publications, to convey their message.

My view: Dada is by definition a very political movement. I think I find this political aspect of the movement harder to understand, partly because I myself am not very politically minded, but also because the politics involved are from and different time and place, and so do not feel relevant to me, in the way they would have been to the original artists.  The work of the artists is very different to my personal perception of what art is and what it can be, however, while this means that I find the work challenging to understand, it does reinforce the idea that rather than art, Dada is trying to be “anti-art”. While I may not fully understand the work itself, I do appreciate the anti-war message the movement is trying to portray.




•          Surrealism is a cultural movement. It started in the 1920s, and is considered a very visual movement that inspired a lot of artworks.

•          Surrealist artists like to use the unexpected and subtle contradictions in their work.

•           André Breton led the movement and wanted surrealism to be revolutionary.

•           Surrealism was centered mostly in and around Paris. The movement developed as an extension to or continuance of  Dada

•          An example of a surrealist work is a short film called “Un chien Andalou” which was produced by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. The film is silent and portrays a number of disjointed scenes which use characters which are the same or similar, but jumps around to different time scales in an almost dream-like fashion.

My view: As an expansion on Dada, I find surrealism much more engaging than the Dada movement itself. It carries a very similar message but I find the art produced much more stimulating. I find many of the paintings and works by Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst particularly interesting, with their quirky and almost cartoon-like style, and odd and eccentric subject matters. I feel that with most of these works there is an apparent social commentary which is evident from looking at the pieces. When it comes to the video work of “un chien Andalou” my views differ. I found this work to be difficult to watch, and gruesome in places. The dream-like and free-flowing format of the work is certainly different to earlier work, and the visual effects are impressive for their time, and this I can appreciate. However from a personal viewpoint, I did not like this work.



  • Bauhaus, was a german art school created by Walter Gropius .
  • The school aimed to bring all types of art together and unite different mediums and artists to enhance the future of art.
  • The school inspired its own style and was very influential, particularly to the modernist movement.
  • Oskar Schlemmer (1888 – 1943) Was a German artist who was hired as the master of form at the Bauhaus school in 1932.
  • Schlemmer created “Triadisches Ballett” in which performers are presented as geometric shapes using costumes. These costumes incorporate them into the backdrops, and almost make them into living sculptures as they dance.

My view: I find the idea of the Bauhaus school to be very interesting. I like the way that it aimed to create a fusion of different styles and forms. Having watched Schlemmer’s triadic ballet, I feel that it is intruiging in some ways. I liked the connection between the geometric costumes and the simple backgrounds. I also found it interesting that in some cases it is difficult to determine the gender of the performer or character, and so they become more robotic or like a object in the mind of the viewer. I also think the costumes and colour palette give the piece a distinctive look that to me feels ‘retro’. I am not particularly interested in the music or dance itself, but I do find myself interested in the thought process behind this piece.

A still image of the geometric dancers from Schlemmer's "triadic ballet"

A modern approach: Dancers from a music video by Kylie Minogue, which we discussed in class as having similarity to Bauhaus works.



About Abi Britton

Creative Events student from Kent.
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