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    part 2 Art and Identity: Gender Constructions in Photography and Photomontage of the 1920s

    Page  93 Page  94

    5 Postcolonial Cosmopolitanism: Constructing the Weimar New Woman out of a Colonial Imaginary

    The New Woman of the Weimar Republic, a construct of both fact and fiction, dominated German visual culture of the 1920s and early 1930s. While there has been much discussion about the discourses of modernity embedded in the tropes of her image—the Bubikopf hairstyle, cigarette, lipstick-lined lips, and modern dress—her identity as a so-called New Woman (or neue Frau) was as much determined by her self-conscious positioning within the global world as by her look. The interwar popular press reinforced for its readers the spectacle of internationalism, particularly through the mechanism of documentary photography. The pages of the weekly and monthly Illustrierte, or illustrated newspapers, were packed with images of people, customs, architecture, as well as flora and fauna of distant lands far removed from German soil. Historians such as Hanno Hardt have rightly argued that this phenomenon, in conjunction with popular films, “helped reintegrate a defeated Germany visually into the world community.”[1] This fascination with the outside world not only corresponded with Germany’s recent defeat in the First World War but with the gradual loss of German colonies. These included Southwest Africa, Togo, Cameroon, German East Africa, territories in the Pacific, and Kiaochow on the Shantung Peninsula in China. While most of these colonies were lost over the course of the war, it was not until January of 1920, with the ratification of Paragraph 119 of the Treaty of Versailles, that Germany officially relinquished control over these sites. Although political sentiment regarding the colonies before and during the war was mixed, just months after ratifying the treaty the Reichstag voted to reobtain the former colonies as a means of reinserting Germany into the global economic sphere. Prior to the First World War, the Social Democratic Party had been skeptical of the colonial enterprise, but by March of 1920 the party, as well as a majority of the Independent Social Democrats, supported a neocolonialist Page  95agenda. Historians have contended that, despite this political climate, the broader public during the Weimar era was not impacted by the loss of colonies.[2] This contention, however, discounts the role that the popular press and other mass-produced visual materials played in affecting majority culture. If the popular press was careful to avoid overt references to the war and its aftermath, it also evaded a direct discussion of the recent reduction of Germany’s geographic borders. As a means of subtly coping with these territorial losses, through documentary photography and illustrated advertisements the press helped to foster nostalgia for Germany’s prewar past by manufacturing what I will refer to as a colonial imaginary, restaging tropes of a bygone imperialist age.[3] Ethnographic photos and accompanying articles devoted to peoples from former colonial sites and images of explorers on safari, as well as “exotic” animals, botanicals, and vistas, created the myth that Germany sustained a foothold within a global community on a par with other European colonial powers.

    The Weimar New Woman both as a reader and construct of the popular press played an integral role in fostering this colonial imaginary. In this essay, I examine two prevailing paradigms that characterized her function. The first involves the recurring comparison between the New Woman and variant renditions of the “Other” Woman. Mainstream journals such as Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung (BIZ), Münchner Illustrierte Presse (MIP), Die Dame, Uhu, and Der Querschnitt reinforced a visual taxonomy of female types, including mothers, workers, fashion models, and performers. This lexicon showcased a fascination for prototypical images of the New Woman, as well as for pictures of women from around the world, from Africa to the South Seas and from Asia to Latin America. In short, ideas concerning Otherness in relation to notions of the self served as a defining discourse of Weimar New Womanhood. The second paradigm involves the phenomenon of the New Woman as explorer. Seen in combination with her male counterpart, the female explorer typology contested the notion that expeditions and safaris were unsuitable for ladies. While such depictions played to the rhetoric of empowering the modern woman, the appeal of this particular persona also complied with a lingering taste for colonial adventure. Furthermore, the spectacle of the New Woman posed with exotic animals such as zebras, giraffes, and alligators catered to the prerequisite entertainment value of press photography. This pairing of women and animals ultimately referenced a host of discourses ranging from contemporary fashion aesthetics to more serious issues involving contemporary scientific studies and the racial politics of the Rhineland Controversy, beginning in 1919 and lasting through the 1920s.

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    If the popular press served as one of the main venues where Weimar postcolonial discourses were played out, other media, such as photomontage as practiced by members of the avant-garde, also contributed to this arena. The medium of photomontage has long been associated with the critique function of the avant-garde. While this designation is indeed appropriate, it has perpetuated the notion that photomontage is removed from its original photographic sources and defined as something wholly new.[4] Photomonteurs Marianne Brandt and Hannah Höch understood the culture of popular press photography during the 1920s—the dynamism, drama, entertainment value, and climactic moment—as well as the perceived truth-telling capabilities of the image. Through mimesis and satire of these traits, they created montages that were capable of critiquing the ideology of imperialism. At the same time, as loyal readers of Illustrierte, Brandt and Höch often assumed the less critical persona of armchair travelers. While neither had traveled to former colonies nor to locales far beyond Europe, press photographs simulated wider travel.[5] To varying extents, their montages presented tropes of Weimar postcolonialism, capturing the fascination for the “Other” Woman, the female explorer prototype, and the pairing of the neue Frau with exotic animals. In the case of both artists, their work embodies a dichotomy between critiquing the rhetoric of colonialism and celebrating the spectacle of internationalism. While this stance may seem contradictory, it reflects the slippage between the medium of photomontage and its indebtedness to its original documentary sources. More important, it illustrates the inherent contradictions intrinsic to Weimar postcolonialism.

    (Post)Colonial Cosmopolitanism meets Weimar Postcolonialism

    Using the term postcolonial in reference to the Weimar era warrants some explanation.[6] Gayatri Spivak’s insightful suspicion of the artificial divide between colonial and postcolonial histories prompted my interest in the postcolonial condition of the Weimar Republic.[7] Despite the fact that German colonies were subsumed by other colonial powers during the First World War, the legacy of imperialism lingered in vestiges of political, popular, and, particularly, visual cultures. Nonetheless, mapping and defining the coordinates of Weimar postcolonialism is a challenging task due to its multidimensional character. Within the political realm, there was an impetus to protest the finality of the colonial settlement specified in the Treaty of Versailles.[8] This sentiment colored international relations between Germany and other European powers during the interwar period. It also became the agenda of Page  97the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft (German Colonial Society, DKG), which by 1926 had 250 branches throughout Germany with a total of thirty thousand members.[9] Their procolonial stance manifested itself through published books, pamphlets, periodicals, calendars, novels, advertisements, theatrical events, school programs, and exhibitions. While it would be inaccurate to characterize this neocolonial climate of Weimar as pervasive, the reality is that the lingering legacy of German colonialism was discernible by the larger public through a variety of means. The historian Mary E. Townsend, writing in 1928, confirmed this by reporting on an active “contemporary colonial movement in Germany,” which extended far beyond the framework of colonial associations by “telling the Germans more about their former colonies than they ever knew when those lands were German soil.”[10] Townsend noted that such colonial-focused magazines as the Koloniale Rundschau and Der Kolonial-Deutsche had “a wide circulation although Germany owns no colonies.”[11]

    The Weimar popular press subscribed to a more subtle engagement with postcoloniality—reinforcing a number of visual tropes, including the aforementioned dichotomy between the New Woman and the “Other” Woman, the female explorer typology, and the pairing of the neue Frau with exotic animals. Collectively, these paradigms correspond to the conceptual framework of what Peter Van der Veer has called colonial cosmopolitanism. According to Van der Veer, cosmopolitanism is “not only a trope of modernity but also, and very specifically, of colonial modernity.”[12] As such, colonial cosmopolitanism functions as a form of translation and conversion of the local into the universal.[13] In the case of the Weimar era, a plethora of visually oriented consumer commodities such as Illustrierte, films, novellas, collector’s cards sponsored by cigarette companies, postcards, product packaging, displays at ethnographic museums, and Völkerschauen (human zoos) manufactured an aesthetic of postcolonial cosmopolitanism. As Germany’s decreased access to the rest of the world necessitated this simulated cosmopolitanization of Weimar culture, the collective presence of this aesthetic reinforced a sense of sustained imperial might.

    The Weimar New Woman and the “Other” Woman

    A pleasant feature was the girls, who in lines in front and behind the dancers, kept time by a body swing which caused their grass skirts to move in a pleasant rhythmic way. Many of these girls are extremely pretty, and of proportions that would exact the envy of many of our own women.[14]
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    Written and photographic accounts of the beauty and appeal of the “Other” Woman, as evinced by this quote from the Australian documentary photographer and filmmaker Frank Hurley, flooded the pages of Weimar Illustrierte. This so-called Other Woman functioned in contrast to the German New Woman. As a construct, the former represented a diverse geographic, cultural, and racial spectrum. Whether from New Guinea, Africa, Indonesia, Samoa, or a host of other locales, she was identified by her Otherness, a concept constituted by the color of her skin, ethnicity, dress, and the context in which she was photographed. The stark geographic divide between the German metropole and the former colonies meant that there was significantly less interaction between German citizens and former colonial subjects after the period of colonial rule. While there were some exceptions, most notably the touring groups for Völkerschauen, overall the geographic division between the neue Frau and the “Other” Woman meant that photographic comparisons were safe, part of a decisively postcolonial environment. In other words, admiration for the physical traits of women from other parts of the world could flourish given that these comparisons were theoretical and did not pose any real threat to European hegemony or racial purity. Uta G. Poiger has recently identified the “Asianization” of the Modern Girl, an aesthetic that served a range of advertising agendas in Weimar and Nazi Germany.[15] This mode of hybridity characteristic of the “international style” authored the Modern Girl as a byproduct of European and East Asian traits. It is important to note that other types of racial mixing were not en vogue during the 1920s and would not have functioned as a viable visual campaign for products such as cosmetics, tooth powder, and other toiletries. In short, modernist fantasies of the universal woman were committed to sustaining acceptable modifications of “whiteness.”

    The politics of hybridity did not preclude Weimar readers from curiosity about the “Other” Woman. The postwar years saw a dramatic increase in illustrated newspapers filled with advertisements and photographs catering to female consumers.[16] Illustrated and photographic renditions of the “Other” Woman were used to sell skin creams and soaps, products reliant on colonial imports such as dried coconut. Perpetuating the persuasive language of commodity culture, these images promoted markers of the “exotic” in order to sell products. A host of other types of pictures featuring women from around the world played to an interest in the global arena of New Womanhood, providing visual reportage about how women from across the world lived. The photographs of “Other” Women often featured the methods of what might be called “visual anthropology,” an approach that was connected to the Page  99research aims of ethnography and simultaneously rooted in pseudoscientific practices of spectatorship. Visual anthropology privileges the visual as a diagnostic tool in lieu of verbal communication.[17] Images of the “Other” Woman in the Weimar popular press often reinforced this conceptual framework; photographs published in journals such as Der Querschnitt and illustrated weeklies such as BIZ frequently allowed the photograph to “speak for itself.” This meant that in many instances photos of the “Other” Woman were featured without accompanying articles or text, often juxtaposed with images of the New Woman. This comparative model played to the ideology of universalism by attempting to normalize or domesticate the “exotic” while at the same time “exoticizing” the domestic. According to Graham Huggan, this cultural construction engages two “opposite poles of strangeness and familiarity,” which likely function together as a means of coping with newness.[18] Pages of Der Querschnitt often juxtaposed two seemingly unrelated photographs, reinforcing this type of reading. In a layout from the August 1925 issue, a fashion model from the London firm Reville is positioned next to a picture of two young women from New Guinea (fig. 5.1). The connection between these two images lies in the collective appearance of the women,

    Fig. 5.1.: A page from Der Querschnitt, August 1925. The captions read, from left to
right, "Das schönste Modell der Firma Reville in London" and "Mädchen aus Neu-
Guineu—Aus Captain Frank Hurleys Film, Pearls and Savages."
    Fig. 5.1.

    A page from Der Querschnitt, August 1925. The captions read, from left to right, "Das schönste Modell der Firma Reville in London" and "Mädchen aus Neu- Guineu—Aus Captain Frank Hurleys Film, Pearls and Savages."

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    all of whom are elaborately adorned, showcasing a pageantry of femininity. The pairing simultaneously exploits the otherness of the New Woman and celebrates a curiosity about the "Other" Woman, a dynamic that would not have been lost on the readership.

    Several of the photographs included in the Weimar press featured women from former German colonies such as Samoa, parts of Africa, and New Guinea. The latter locale was particularly popular, likely due to the prevalence of film stills and documentary photographs by the previously mentioned Australian filmmaker and photographer Frank Hurley. Hurley was a self-trained cameraman. He was renowned for accompanying expeditions to the Antarctic, serving as a war photographer, and producing films in conjunction with his own travels to the South Seas. The image from Der Querschnitt is a still from Hurley’s 1921 film Pearls and Savages. Stills from this film, as well as a collection of related photographs published as a book a few years later, appeared in a number of issues of Ullstein Press publications, including Der Querschnitt and BIZ.[19] While not all of these images were of women, the two featured in figure 5.1 were widely reproduced. Their frontal pose, direct gaze, and partial nudity, as well as their adornment with jewelry, grass skirts, and flowers, served as identifiable markers for the “exotic.” Additionally, their appearance reinforced a code of palatable beauty espoused by the “Other” Woman that was acceptable to Weimar readers.

    Armchair Travelers and the New Woman Explorer Typology

    When all geographic hideouts have been photographed, society will have been completely blinded.[20]
    My wife holds the gun. Thank Heaven I have found the right sort of woman to take along with me into the desert and the jungle. If ever a man needed a partner in his chosen vocation it has been I. And if ever a wife were a partner to a man, it is Osa Johnson.[21]

    The idea of the “Other” Woman is closely linked to the culture of exploration. The Weimar popular press featured photos, written accounts, and advertisements for a host of male explorers, hunters, filmmakers, and documentarians. It is significant to note that many of these individuals, like Frank Hurley, were not German. In light of Germany’s postcolonial status, Australian, British, and American adventurers served as surrogates for a German tradition of exploration, which harkened back to the age of Alexander von Page  101Humboldt. While curiosity certainly fueled the mass appeal of these features, the reality is that readers of WeimarIllustrierte relied heavily on these venues for information about sites beyond the boundaries of their cities, regions, or nation-state. As a result, armchair travelers willingly consumed stories and images concerning the politics, customs, and environmental wonders of Asia, the Americas, Africa, and the South Seas. Although they were often “newsworthy,” these features also served as a calculated reprieve from postwar domestic politics. While the Weimar popular press skirted any overt reference to Germany’s failed colonial past or renewed interest in reobtaining colonial properties, the coverage of explorers and the details of their expeditions reinforced a colonial imaginary. Simply put, the visually oriented realm of the press conveyed the message that the world was still collectable and consumable by a German readership.

    In tandem with the male explorer persona, a New Woman explorer typology emerged in Weimar press and film culture. In contrast to her male counterpart, whose masculinity was conferred by his portrayal with a gun, felled animals, and subservient native guides or photo subjects, the New Woman explorer was firmly rooted in the field of high fashion. A signifier of the advertising industry, the New Woman was often used to promote products that relied on colonial imports. In conjunction with materials essential for manufacturing makeup and other beauty products, the skins and furs of exotic animals from well beyond the geographic boundaries of Europe were used to produce high-end shoes, garments, and accessories. In a full-page layout in BIZ in January of 1925, a series of photographs present the New Woman promoting alligator-skin shoes and leather ski jackets lined with leopard fur. One image from this page depicts a “huntress of high-taste” (fig. 5.2). A New Woman type donning the alligator-skin footwear she advertises mimics the victorious pose of a male hunter; with delicacy and grace, she steps on a dead, stuffed alligator. If courage was the desired signifier of the posturing by male explorers, the New Woman’s equally staged triumph signals her fashion sense and lingering taste for colonial imports. It is worth noting that the text that accompanies this fashion spread reinforced the fact that products made from the skin and fur of exotic animals were not only in fashion but were “very modern,” an additional indication that the colonial aesthetic was an essential ingredient of Weimar modernity.[22]

    Though often relegated to being a huntress of high fashion, the New Woman explorer also encompassed a more active persona. Female travelers, adventurers, anthropologists, and photographers marked the liberation associated with the new age of womanhood. For the press, these types were

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    Fig. 5.2.: Advertisement from Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, January 1, 1925.
    Fig. 5.2.

    Advertisement from Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, January 1, 1925.

    attractive; for some readers, they were a curiosity or inspiration; and for others they functioned as a spectacle, a means of selling papers and illustrated magazines through shock value. Like her male counterpart, this version of the New Woman explorer was often of a nationality other than German. If she served as a stand-in for wannabe German travelers, her identity as American, British, or Dutch connoted a safe zone where her freedom to explore foreignPage  103terrain did not challenge codes of German domesticity. In other words, she fulfilled in look and concept the press's construct of the New Woman without establishing a precedent for German women. Furthermore, the varied nationality of these female explorers catered to the cosmopolitanization of Weimar visual culture by keeping tabs on the explorative activities of other Western powers.

    One prime example of the New Woman explorer type was Osa Johnson (fig. 5.3). Originally from rural Kansas, she accompanied her husband Martin to Melanesia, Polynesia, Malekula, and Borneo, as well as on safari and hunting expeditions in Africa. Together they produced a range of feature films on-site, including, Jungle Adventures (1921), Simba, the King of the Beasts (1928), Congorilla (1932), and Borneo (1937). Between 1917 and 1937, they finished eight films and published nine books.[23] Through film stills and photographs, a number of these projects were showcased internationally, including in Germany. Osa Johnson, in particular, became a popular visual icon of the Weimar press. Images such as the one featured on the cover of BIZ in July of 1923 had great market appeal; the photo depicts her riding a domesticated Grevy zebra at the Hook Farm at the base of Mount Kenya (fig. 5.3). Johnson’s appearance played to the persona of the New Woman with her cropped hair, powdered skin, lipstick-lined lips, and mannish safari wear. With savvy knowledge of the mass market, Johnson self-consciously authored her identity as a female adventurer and sought out the most sensational poses, including pictures with crocodiles, zebras, and lions.[24] Despite the fact that the Johnsons worked as a duo until Martin’s death in 1937, Osa’s image dominated their advertising campaign.

    Postcolonial Cosmopolitans? The Photomontages of Marianne Brandt and Hannah Höch

    The cosmopolitan dynamic of the popular press had a predictable impact on the vision of Weimar era photomonteurs. Artists such as Marianne Brandt and Hannah Höch consumed the postcolonial cosmopolitan aesthetic of the age, including the categories detailed earlier. Photomontage from the mid-1920s through the early 1930s functioned for both practitioners as primarily a private activity. In Brandt’s case there is no clear evidence to suggest that she officially exhibited her roughly forty-five montages prior to the 1970s.[25] Similarly, Höch did not exhibit her 1920 photomontages publicly until 1929, when roughly eighteen of her works were shown at the “Film und Foto” exhibition in Stuttgart.[26] Despite the private character of these works, they

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    Fig. 5.3.: Cover photo from Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, July 22, 1923.
    Fig. 5.3.

    Cover photo from Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, July 22, 1923.

    illustrate the ways in which Brandt and Höch actively engaged with public discourses of New Womanhood originating in photojournalism and film. While Höch and Brandt were not colleagues or in direct correspondence with one another, they shared a number of common friends, including László Moholy-Nagy and Kurt Schwitters.

    Brandt’s career and community during the 1920s centered on the Bauhaus, where she was a student in Weimar beginning in 1924. Serving initially as an apprentice in the Metal Workshop, she was eventually appointed its acting director after the school moved to Dessau. As Elizabeth Otto has noted, her photomontages illustrate a close affinity with the work of her mentor, Page  105Moholy-Nagy, who likely introduced her to the practice. While the two draw on similar imagery clipped from the pages of the illustrated press and share an interest in universalism, Brandt's oeuvre takes on a decisively different character given her interest in showcasing the New Woman as a heroine of the age. Her travels to Norway and France and her imagined excursions to the United States, which were facilitated by films and the illustrated press, may have contributed to her fascination with the New Woman explorer prototype. Montages such asMiss Lola of 1926 (fig. 5.4) incorporate clippings of the German film producer Lola Kreutzberg. Pictured with a cheetah on the April 1926 cover of BIZ, this photo and others were taken while Kreutzberg was traveling in the Dutch colony of Indonesia in preparation for two films for which she served as the screenwriter, director, and camerawoman.[27] Like Osa Johnson, Kreutzberg’s projects often involved the visually enticing world of exotic animals; posed photos with these indigenous creatures signaled the authenticity of her experience in foreign lands. Brandt’s Miss Lola connects with the aesthetic and kaleidoscopic character of stills from films of the time such as Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt (Berlin: Symphony of a Great City) of 1927, in which signs of the metropolis converge onto one plane, fusing fragments of architectural structures, modes of transport, portrayals of the masses, and individual city types. Brandt inserts the world of zoos, circus shows, and racetracks into her roster of urban imagery. Like the rows of houses, auto-packed streets, boat-lined rivers, and overpopulated plazas, which are also featured in this work, these renditions of an animal habitat are chaotic, buzzing with urban energy, and ultimately artificial. In contrast to these collaged vignettes, Kreutzberg and the cheetah engage in a meaningful, slow-tempo embrace. While Kreutzberg appears here as a product of this urban frenzy, under the auspices of her travel outside of Europe the film producer genuinely and intimately connects with the animal kingdom. There is certainly an essentialist implication here, an overt association between “woman” and “nature.” Nonetheless, Brandt empowers the New Woman as an inhabitant of both zones by showing her simultaneously as a trope of the metropolis and an interpreter of the natural world. Last, like the advertisements for alligator shoes, both Kreutzberg and the cheetah exemplify an ideal of “chic beauty” characteristic of the era. While the pairing of the New Woman with exotic animals was integral to the female explorer type, it also became a symbol of fashionability. In 1930, the African American performer Josephine Baker posed for promotional photographs with her pet leopard, Chiquita. The photos helped to advertise her new revue, “Paris qui Remue,” performed at the Casino de Paris.[28] Baker’s pairing

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    Fig. 5.4.: Marianne Brandt, Miss Lola, 1926, photomontage with newspaper clippings on
black cardboard, 48.0 x 63.2 cm. (Private Collection via Gallery Urich Fiedler, Cologne,
Germany. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)
    Fig. 5.4.

    Marianne Brandt, Miss Lola, 1926, photomontage with newspaper clippings on black cardboard, 48.0 x 63.2 cm. (Private Collection via Gallery Urich Fiedler, Cologne, Germany. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)

    with an exotic animal played to her cachet as a performer, as well as to the popularized aesthetic of "Negrophilia" in France during the Jazz Age.

    As a number of her montages attest, Brandt was intrigued by pictures of people from other lands. The incorporation of this imagery into her montages conformed to a concept of interwar period universalism in that Brandt devoted a number of her photomontages to exploring equivalent modes of beauty espoused by women of different races, cultures, and nationalities. Brandt’s work o.T. (mit Anna May Wong) (Untitled [with Anna May Wong]) from 1929 (fig. 5.5) showcases five female faces. The central image, a fragment of a pale-skinned, blond-haired model or film star, is flanked by two additional visages of the same scale. To the left is a profile image of the Chinese American actress Anna May Wong, whose depiction is echoed by a cleverly positioned silhouette. To the right is the face of a girl who resembles the fresh look of socialist propaganda posters: cropped hair, cloth head covering, and full smile. Atop this trio sits a more sensationalist duo, the bust of Page  107a woman donning a vibrant black-and-white striped dress juxtaposed with the head of a zebra. The visual parity between these two creatures was no accident. The boldness of the zebra's black-and-white stripes was frequently co-opted by Weimar advertisement designers for a host of products. Neither the zebra nor the women depicted in this montage were anonymous to Weimar viewers. The same image of this particular zebra—clearly recognizable as such since no two zebras share the same striped pattern—was used in a popular 1928 poster advertisement for the Budapesti Ãllatkert (Budapest Zoo). The accompanying woman is the actress Katherine Hessling, the wife of Jean Renoir and renowned star of many of his films, including his 1926 rendition of Émile Zola'sNana. The image of Hessling was clipped from a 1929 issue of Münchner Illustrierte Presse, the source for a number of Brandt’s images.[29] The lower section of the photomontage features a Mangbetu woman from the former Zaire, today the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The women of this region, renowned for their beauty, practiced the art of scull wrapping, which elongated the cranium. Next to the Mangbetu woman is a smaller reproduction of a giraffe, which serves as a counterpoint to the zebra. Typical of some of Brandt’s collaged works, this montage incorporates the sleek and pure forms of Bauhaus elements: a rectangular cut of celluloid and a mounted oculus of glass. The last element in this composition is perhaps the most telling, a stylized figure eight, which resembles an upturned sign for infinity. This addition perhaps serves as a potent symbol for the link between all of these women, who exemplify desirable traits. Pictured in tandem with exotic animals, these subjects also “perform” a brand of femininity authored by the 1920s press and film culture.

    Like Brandt, Hannah Höch celebrated the visual spectacle of Weimar popular culture. Her Mass-Media Scrapbook from circa 1933–34, a 114-page collection of roughly four hundred press photographs that she pasted into a copy of the journal Die Dame, is a prime example of the photomonteur’s “eye” for visually arresting images. The scrapbook was most likely a private exercise, one that enabled Höch to collect and reminisce about the aesthetic of the Weimar age.[30] The album includes pictures of the New Woman, the “Other” Woman, domesticated animals, animals from far-off lands, botanical wonders, babies, and landscapes. This album and Höch’s From an Ethnographic Museum series of photomontages, numbering roughly twenty and ranging in date from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s, often acritically romanticized the notion of the “Other” Woman as an emblem of an idealized, simplified world, one untainted by the powers of commerce and Western civilization. Still a number of her images from the Weimar era do engage

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    Fig. 5.5.: Marianne Brandt, Untitled (with Anna May Wong), 1929, assemblage of newspaper clippings, glass, celluloid, and metal, 67 x 50 cm. (Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)
    Fig. 5.5.

    Marianne Brandt, Untitled (with Anna May Wong), 1929, assemblage of newspaper clippings, glass, celluloid, and metal, 67 x 50 cm. (Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)

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    with a subtle critique of colonialism and contemporary neocolonialist discourses.

    One such discursive arena included the overt racial politics of the Rhineland Controversy, which began in 1920. Propagandistically staged as an incident of international importance, the German press and government’s response to France’s stationing of North African soldiers along the Rhine permeated Weimar popular culture. As with Brandt, Höch’s montages during the mid- to late 1920s remained a private activity yet one that actively engaged with public debates. On the surface, Höch’s work Die Kokette II (The Coquette II) from circa 1925 (fig. 5.6) plays to the trope of the New Woman with exotic animals. Indeed, monkeys and pretty girls were gimmicks of Weimar cabaret and circus shows. This work, however, points to a

    Fig. 5.6.: Hannah Höch, Die Kokette II (The Coquette II), ca. 1925, photomontage,
13 x 13.4 cm. (Collection of Marianne Carlberg. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New
York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)
    Fig. 5.6.

    Hannah Höch, Die Kokette II (The Coquette II), ca. 1925, photomontage, 13 x 13.4 cm. (Collection of Marianne Carlberg. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)

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    more specific symbolism associated with the visual and linguistic tropes of the Rhineland conflict, the feared intermingling of white German women and black French colonial soldiers, the latter often pejoratively represented in the German press as grotesque, simian beasts. SatiricalIllustrierte, such as the Munich-based Simplicissimus, exploited the inflammatory nature of the propaganda; Höch’s montage masterfully diffuses the implied terror associated with gorillas absconding with white women. As the title of the photomontage implies, a flirtatious female figure, represented by a blond-haired Mädchen, engages playfully with her simian companion. The pair is unified by their attire; she wears the top from a white pantsuit while he has donned the bottoms. Far from an intimidating scene, the staged playfulness ruptures the hyperbole normally associated with such a pairing. Furthermore, Höch’s critique of the role of the New Woman as a pawn of the Rhineland propaganda is implied here; rather than a sophisticated, independent female of the 1920s, she is just a child. While the relationship between Höch’s montages and Weimar postcolonialism warrants an essay in its own right, the core point here is that photomontage, despite its indebtedness to its original documentary sources, provided the capability of critiquing the visual language of the press and the dangerous predilections of the larger culture.


    What I have tried to present in this essay is a detailed, introductory account of the neue Frau during the Weimar Republic and her relationship to notions of the “Other” Woman and tropes of the exotic. In addition, I have shown that the varied nationality of female explorer types catered to a German interest in keeping tabs on the explorative activities of other Western powers. Indeed, Germany’s decreased access to the rest of the world following the First World War necessitated a simulated cosmopolitanization of Weimar visual culture. The collective presence of this aesthetic ultimately reinforced a colonial imaginary, implying a vital future for German imperialism. My hope is that this essay will open the door for collaborative work that will extend beyond the Eurocentric focus of Weimar New Woman studies, allowing for a confluence of old and new approaches to this topic that embody a truly “global perspective.” One potential model for this mode of inquiry involves Miriam Silverberg’s call for the programmatic examination of the “Colonial Maiden” detailed in her essay “After the Grand Tour,” included in the recent, invaluable volume The Modern Girl Around the World. According to Silverberg, the concept of the Colonial Maiden would comprise “girls Page  111of the 'exterior' and the metropole," including "daughters of colonizers, the colonized, collaborators, and adventurers."[31] Like the Modern Girl or the New Woman, the Colonial Maiden would be considered as both an “icon and agent.”[32] To my mind, this approach has great promise for opening up the concept of the neue Frau in Germany. Furthermore, a comprehensive study of the Colonial Maiden in relation to German colonial history would produce valuable cross-cultural comparisons and expose the imperialist discourses intrinsic to European concepts of modernity and universalism. Embracing and rigorously investigating concepts such as the Colonial Maiden in tandem with additional case studies involving Weimar postcolonial cosmopolitanism would go a long way toward expanding the field.


    The research for this essay was completed with the generous support of a Junior Faculty Research Grant from the University of Nevada, Reno. I want to thank my colleagues in the Departments of Art and Women’s Studies and those associated with the Gender, Race, and Identity Program at UNR for their comments on an earlier draft of this material.

    1. Hanno Hardt, In the Company of Media: Cultural Constructions of Communication, 1920s–1930s (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000), 61.return to text

    2. Wolfe W. Schmokel, Dream of Empire: German Colonialism, 1919–1945 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964; Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980), 2.return to text

    3. For additional reading on the role of popular press photography and the construct of a Weimar colonial imaginary, see my essay “Weimar Revisions of Germany’s Colonial Past: The Photomontages of Hannah Höch and László Moholy-Nagy,” in German Colonialism, Visual Culture, and Modern Memory, ed. Volker Langbehn (London and New York: Routledge, 2010).return to text

    4. For this position, see Peter’s Bürger’s discussion of montage in Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 73–82.return to text

    5. In 1953, Brandt did embark on a six-month trip to China as the official curatorial accompaniment for the exhibition “German Applied Arts in the GDR.” For further information, see Elizabeth Otto, Tempo, Tempo! The Bauhaus Photomontages of Marianne Brandt (Berlin: Jovis Verlag and Bauhaus-Archiv, 2005), 148.return to text

    6. For further discussion, see Marcia Klotz, “The Weimar Republic: A Postcolonial State in a Still-Colonial World” in Germany’s Colonial Pasts, ed. Eric Ames, Marcia Klotz, and Lora Wildenthal (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2005), 135.return to text

    7. See Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1999).return to text

    8. Schmokel, 77.return to text

    Page  112

    9. Ibid., 2.return to text

    10. Mary E. Townsend, “The Contemporary Colonial Movement in Germany,” Political Science Quarterly 43, no. 1 (March 1928): 64–75 (65).return to text

    11. Ibid., 64–75.return to text

    12. Peter Van der Veer, “Colonial Cosmopolitanism,” in Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Context, and Practice, ed. Steven Vertovec and Robin Cohen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 165–79 (169), emphasis added.return to text

    13. Ibid., 166.return to text

    14. Frank Hurley, from his Diary D, August 16, 1921, quoted in Jim Specht and John Fields, Frank Hurley in Papua: Photographs of the 1920–1923 Expeditions (Bathurst, Australia: Robert Brown in association with the Australian Museum Trust, 1984), 20.return to text

    15. Uta G. Poiger, “Fantasies of Universality? Neue Frauen, Race, and Nation in Weimar and Nazi Germany,” in The Modern Girl Around the World: Consumption, Modernity, and Globalization, ed. The Modern Girl Around the World Research Group (Alys Eve Weinbaum, Lynn M. Thomas, Priti Ramamurthy, Uta G. Poiger, Madeleine Yue Dong, and Tani E. Barlow) (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 326–30.return to text

    16. Gideon Reuveni, Reading Germany: Literature and Consumer Culture in Germany before 1933 (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2006), 115, 137.return to text

    17. For a variety of definitions and modes of visual anthropology, see Paul Hockings, ed., Principles of Visual Anthropology (Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1995).return to text

    18. Graham Huggan, The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 13.return to text

    19. Frank Hurley, Pearls and Savages: Adventures in the Air, on Land, and Sea in New Guinea (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1924).return to text

    20. Siegfried Kracauer, “The Little Shopgirls Go to the Movies,” in The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays, trans. and ed. Thomas Y. Levin (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1995), 299.return to text

    21. Martin Johnson, Safari: A Saga of the African Blue (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1928), 208.return to text

    22. Berliner Illustirte Zeitung, January 1, 1925, 4.return to text

    23. Alexandra Lapierre and Christel Mouchard, Woman Travelers: A Century of Trailblazing Adventures, 1850–1950 (Paris: Flammarion, 2007), 212.return to text

    24. Ibid., 208–9.return to text

    25. Otto, Tempo, Tempo! 10, 12.return to text

    26. Kristin Makholm, “Chronology,” in The Photomontages of Hannah Höch, ed. Maria Makela and Peter Boswell (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center), 194.return to text

    27. For a full list of Kreutzberg’s filmic achievements, see[http://www.filmportal.de]return to text

    28. See the cover of Petrine Archer-Straw, Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s (London: Thames and Hudson, 2000).return to text

    29. See Münchner Illustierte Presse, December 1, 1929, 1664.return to text

    Page  113

    30. Melissa A. Johnson, “Souvenirs of Amerika: Hannah Höch’s Weimar-Era Mass-Media Scrapbook,” in The Scrapbook in American Life, ed. Susan Tucker, Katherine Ott, and Patricia Buckler (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006), 135–52 (136).return to text

    31. Miriam Silverberg, “After the Grand Tour: The Modern Girl, the New Woman, and the Colonial Maiden,” in The Modern Girl Around the World: Consumption, Modernity, and Globalization, ed. The Modern Girl Around the World Research Group (Alys Eve Weinbaum, Lynn M. Thomas, Priti Ramamurthy, Uta G. Poiger, Madeleine Yue Dong, and Tani E. Barlow) (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 354–61 (360).return to text

    32. Ibid., 357.return to text

    Page  114

    6 Hannah Höch’s New Woman: Photomontage, Distraction, and Visual Literacy in the Weimar Republic

    The New Woman of Weimar society was a figure of both imagination and material reality.[1] The term referred to the new social roles that women increasingly adopted during the Weimar Republic as a result of changes in German work, politics, consumer culture, and entertainment. It also signified a set of stereotypical images or “types”—created by the burgeoning mass media—that affected male and female behavior alike. On a seemingly more basic level, the New Woman further suggested a changed mode of modern female identity that was to be distinguished from the traditional types characteristic of Wilhelmine society and was connected to the rationalization and “Americanization” of everyday life during the Weimar Republic. She thus quickly became a primary sign representing the radical transformation of Germany after the war, a symbol of how its politics, society, and everyday life had been irrevocably altered. As a result, she was constantly represented, lauded as an embodiment of new possibilities open to women of the time, and demonized as a primary force threatening the nation’s social, moral, physical, and economic stability.

    As I shall argue, the representation of the New Woman was central to the Weimar photomontages of the Berlin Dadaist Hannah Höch, because Höch’s fundamental project was an interrogation of modern identity, and it was through photomontage that the New Woman’s various forms, meanings, and actual states of being could be examined and reconfigured. Neither fully accepting nor fully rejecting the New Woman, Höch used her art to analyze the New Woman’s myth and thereby to reveal both her ideological and her revolutionary potential. Central to Höch’s analysis was an exploration of the New Woman’s fundamentally cyborgian nature, which Höch suggested by representing the New Woman as an assemblage of Page  115organic and mechanical parts. In this way, Höch revealed the New Woman to be both a consumer and a producer of representations in the mass media, a creative consciousness fundamentally concerned with the impact of technology on human bodies and minds and the ways in which technology's effects were influenced and channeled, strengthened or mitigated, through practices of montage.

    Two of Höch’s photomontages reveal the fundamentally hybrid nature of the New Woman as well as the influence she was beginning to have on her culture and society. Directly after the First World War, the compositional strategies of Höch’s photomontages underwent a series of changes. She began to move away from the simultaneous “all over” montage structure of her earliest Dada works, completed in 1919 and early 1920, toward the simpler forms of composition that the other Berlin Dadaists were also beginning to favor.[2] Instead of multiple figures, Höch’s later Dada photomontages, completed during 1920, began to focus on a much smaller set of main characters, generally between one and three in number. Like traditional forms of painterly and photographic representation, these photomontages articulated clear centers of interest or focus, and, by allowing for definite size differences between the various photomontage elements, the compositions also became more hierarchically organized. In addition, the indexical relationship between the photographic fragments and the photographic subjects was transformed. No longer choosing for the most part to appropriate specific historical individuals, Höch instead opted to construct common social or psychological types, often created out of a multiplicity of carefully cut fragments that left the spectator with little or no idea of the actual person from whom the components were originally drawn.

    The Dadaist photomontage Das schöne Mädchen (The Beautiful Girl, 1919–20) (fig. 6.1), wherein Höch presents the New Woman as a seemingly brainless cyborg, is a good example of this new, more indexically distanced, anonymous, and general type of subject. Although the background is still extremely busy, the relative size and positioning of the figure make her the central element and thus the focus. Here a bathing beauty, dressed in a formfitting black bathing suit, sits on an I beam, her head—but not her bouffant hairdo—displaced by an electric lightbulb. She is surrounded by circular motifs, which seem to stand as symbols of her desire but also have connotations of danger or menace. The American boxer and heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, to whom the New York Dada artist Arthur Craven lost a boxing match in Barcelona in 1916,[3] moves in from the left, his body penetrating a thin motorcycle tire and his gloves touching the beautiful girl’s

    Page  116
    Fig. 6.1.: Hannah Höch, Das schöne Mädchen (The Beautiful Girl), 1919—20, photomontageand collage, 35 x 29 cm (13 3/4 x 11 7/16 in). (Private collection. Photo: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz and Art Resource, New York. © 2010 Artists
Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)
    Fig. 6.1.

    Hannah Höch, Das schöne Mädchen (The Beautiful Girl), 1919—20, photomontageand collage, 35 x 29 cm (13 3/4 x 11 7/16 in). (Private collection. Photo: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz and Art Resource, New York. © 2010 Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)

    arm and parasol.[4] Perhaps a subterranean reference to Dada’s international history, the Johnson figure also connotes sport, athleticism, and, because of his nakedness and proximity to the girl cyborg, cross-racial desire. To the right of the beautiful girl, a crankshaft juts aggressively outward toward the viewer, and around it appear BMW insignias of varying sizes. The crankshaft Page  117echoes the I beam, which also thrusts forcefully into the spectator's space. Partially balancing this suggestion of extended space in front of the main figure, the circular BMW logos, which are partly superimposed on one another, suggest a similar extension behind the beautiful girl as well. In addition, a young woman's face stares out at the spectator from the upper right corner. One eye has been replaced with a larger, cropped eye, and the lower portion of her visage is obscured by a woman's hand holding a pocket watch, which extends from the side of the beautiful girl's hairdo. In conjunction with the hand and watch constellation, the clusters of BMW logos perhaps suggest the hypnotic nature of commodity culture.

    In many ways, Höch’s girl cyborg follows the traditional forms of allegory in that it seems to present an embodied representation of an abstract concept or quality, in this case the new ideas about beauty created by the growth of commodity culture and spectacle during the early years of the Weimar Republic. Like traditional allegorical emblems, the cyborg’s photomontage attributes—or in this case her signs of desire—can be read and enumerated. Here, because they are represented by means of idealized depictions appropriated from the mass media, these signs of desire—namely, of beauty, sport, sexuality, travel, and status—are all shown to exist as different types of manufactured products. And because they reveal the commodification of even the most intimate aspects of human existence, they also function as indicators of anxiety, a connotation that is reinforced by Höch’s photomontage technique, which is characterized by disturbing physical and spatial disjunctions. At the same time, however, Höch’s figure also interacts with its attributes and environment in strange and heterogeneous ways that seem odd in comparison to most traditional allegorical representations. In particular, it is unclear if the countenance in the top right corner belongs to the cyborg. On the one hand, it seems to be the correct size for her hairdo, and if the visage with the montaged eye did belong to the beautiful girl, then the power of commodity culture could perhaps be seen to emanate from the cyborg. On the other hand, the face of the woman with the montaged eye seems radically separate from the girl’s body; and all the other photographic elements—hairdo, hand, and BMW insignias—seem to divide it from her lithe form. Following this reading, one could imagine the beautiful cyborg’s consciousness being left behind as she explores physical pleasure and consumption in the modern world. No longer the figure in control, she is, instead, a passive and gullible consumer, a woman seduced by a field of attractive but ultimately two-dimensional images.

    Page  118

    Although composed of different fragmentary photographic images, The Beautiful Girl represents a type not an individual. Unlike Höch’s most famous photomontage, Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany (1919–20), and other early works, such as Dada Panorama (1919), for the most part The Beautiful Girl did not encourage its spectators to identify specific historical personages or imagine their particular histories and implied transformations as envisioned by the artist. (In the context of The Beautiful Girl, the historically specific figure of Jack Johnson seems like a remnant of Höch’s earlier approach.) Thus, because it drew attention to a common type, The Beautiful Girl could have prompted its spectators to focus on the mass media and commodity culture as institutions and how they functioned to create, channel, and repress both female and male desire. Expressing both pleasure and anxiety about the identity roles offered to German women through manufactured goods and the culture industry, it suggested that its viewers examine their relationship to the modern myths circulating in the early years of the Weimar Republic.

    As Maria Makela notes, The Beautiful Girl is very similar to another work of approximately the same size and format, Hochfinanz (High Finance), a photomontage with collage from 1923, which is understood to belong to Höch’s post-Dada moment (fig. 6.2). Although it is dated two years later than The Beautiful Girl, High Finance seems closer in imagery and composition to the works that Höch created around 1920 than it does to those created after 1922, which were even simpler and more abstract.[5] This suggests that the photomontage has been misdated or the similarity can stand as evidence of Höch’s continuing Dadaism during the Weimar Republic, the fact that she continued to use photomontage to investigate changes in the mind and body under the conditions of mass reproduction. Most important for understanding Höch’s representations of New Women, however, is the fact that High Finance presents cyborgian New Men, figures with which Höch’s New Women were dialectically interrelated.

    High Finance presents two full-length male figures striding across a landscape that consists of a bird’s-eye view of a fairground with ceremonial buildings and a stadium. They are surrounded by other objects, including an aerial view of a factory complex hovering at the level of their shoulders, a large tire with a truck positioned at its apex, a shiny chrome nut or ball bearing that appears to prevent the tire from rolling, and two fragmentary double-barreled shotguns, each showing a stock, a trigger, and a breech broken open to receive shells. Both men clutch machine parts in their right

    Page  119
    Fig. 6.2.: Hannah Höch, Hochfinanz (High Finance), 1923, photomontage and collage on paper, 36 x 31 cm (14 3/16 x 12 3/16 in). (Galerie Berinson, Berlin and UBU
Gallery, New York. © 2010 Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York and VG Bild-
Kunst, Bonn.)
    Fig. 6.2.

    Hannah Höch, Hochfinanz (High Finance), 1923, photomontage and collage on paper, 36 x 31 cm (14 3/16 x 12 3/16 in). (Galerie Berinson, Berlin and UBU Gallery, New York. © 2010 Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York and VG Bild- Kunst, Bonn.)

    hands as if they were clubs or canes, and to the left of the leftmost figure, two or three small fragments of what is possibly a striped flag appear. Both men, moreover, have had their heads replaced with new ones, which seem too large for their bodies. The carefully cropped profile of the man on the left has not been identified, while the man on the right sports the countenance of Sir John Herschel, the nineteenth-century British chemist. Originally shot by Julia Margaret Cameron in 1867, this portrait wasPage  120appropriated from an article on Cameron published in the ladies' fashion magazine Die Dame in May 1920.

    Höch’s photomontage is inscribed on the bottom left margin with a dedication to László Moholy-Nagy, who published it in 1925 in his book Painting Photography Film where the photomontage was given an alternative title, The Multi-Millionaire, and a caption, “The dual countenance of the ruler.”[6] As implied by its two titles and caption, Höch has constructed a rather threatening image of two bourgeois men that suggests connections between capitalism, militarism, and nationalism during the Weimar Republic and, depending on how the spectator reads the “flag” in the background, perhaps monarchism and Americanism as well. (Because its colors are faded, the flag could stand for a number of different nations, including the German Imperial Empire or the United States of America.) The men hold machine parts in their hands like tools, their heads and bodies have been augmented with oversized shotguns, and they are pressed together shoulder to shoulder almost as if they were parts of the same organism. Höch thus depicts these traditional figures of the capitalist ruling order as having been transformed through technology and having adapted themselves to their modern postwar world. The violence and power of these two members of the economic ruling class are suggested by the threatening way in which they hold their tools, the shotguns that have become parts of their bodies and heads, the fragmented and mismatched character of their figures, and the fact that their size relative to the other elements suggests that they dominate their environment. In addition, the ground on which they walk, the Fair Grounds and Centennial Hall in Breslau, evokes their nationalism. Built by the architects Hans Poelzig and Max Berg in 1913 to commemorate Germany’s defeat of Napoleon in 1813, this complex was regarded by many Germans in the early 1920s as a symbol of hope and renewal for a nation that had once again been defeated and occupied by the French.

    Like the beautiful girl, the capitalists of High Finance are portrayed as types not individuals. Although the figure on the right can be easily identified as Herschel, his identity seems to have more to do with self-reflexive concerns than it does with Herschel’s role in German society or culture. One of the reasons that Höch might have chosen to appropriate Herschel’s visage may have been to establish a lineage for her work. Just as she possibly cited the expressionist artist Käthe Kollwitz in Cut with the Kitchen Knife to refer to an important woman artist who preceded her historically and whose achievements had perhaps helped to make Höch’s own career Page  121easier, the Herschel reference in High Finance may have been a way to acknowledge Cameron as another important precursor or role model for Höch. In addition, Herschel himself was an early photographer, and he made several key contributions to the history of photography.[7] Höch might thus have included his portrait as a subtle way of indicating part of the history out of which her practice of photomontage emerged.

    For these reasons, it seems that High Finance, like The Beautiful Girl, used its photomontage fragments not for political satire but rather to explore broader currents in German society, specifically, the manifold and reactionary connections between capital, the military, nationalism, and counterrevolution that characterized the Weimar Republic’s early years. To emphasize the newness of this dangerous amalgam of concepts, forces, and institutions, Höch made her financiers cyborgs. The old Wilhelmine order had been changed by war and revolution, but, as Höch’s photomontage suggests, this did not mean that it had renounced its conservative and authoritarian values. Instead, as the photomontage implies, German capitalists were using all possible means of technological enhancement to maximize their profits irrespective of the human costs. And by representing its cyborgian capitalists as giants violently ruling an industrialized world, the photomontage suggests that divisions in wealth and power would only become greater over time.

    In addition, when compared to The Beautiful Girl, High Finance implies something perhaps unexpected about gender difference in the modern world, namely, that the growth of technology did not seem to radically alter traditional differences between men and women but, rather, to intensify them. The beautiful girl is identified with the mass media, commodity culture, spectacle, and perhaps (because of her montaged eye) spectatorship, attributes that can all be read as rendering her passive. The financiers, on the other hand, are associated with the means of production and, furthermore, with movement, activity, and violence. Although technology, the photomontages suggest, has changed both genders in the modern world, these transformations can still be understood in terms of an active-male, passive-female dichotomy. Pairing these two montages raises the question of whether technology—often seen as a force that overcame distinctions and linked opposites—could also increase and reify gender differences in a manner similar to the way it augmented and solidified social and economic stratification. For this reason, despite their greater simplicity, these more traditionally composed works are just as ambiguous as the early Dada works characterized by the compositional strategy of simultaneous montage. The Page  122critique characteristic of Höch's earliest photomontages has here become more general, but, like the earliest works,The Beautiful Girl and High Finance do not appear to have been made to provide answers. Instead they provoke disturbing questions about the relationship between gender and industry, commodification, capital, spectacle, and the broader technological system that subtends them.

    In recent years, Höch’s photomontages have provoked debate around how to properly interpret them. As Peter Nisbet has argued, identifying Höch’s photographic source material can serve a number of different purposes. It can help refine and correct the dating of the works; it can “shed some light on the artist’s choices, by showing what was omitted, excised, transfigured; and it can, perhaps, contribute to the interpretation of the work in question.”[8] By raising the question of interpretation, Nisbet draws our attention to the problem of “allegory” in Weimar culture. In the discourse on avant-garde art of which writings on Dadaism form a part, “allegory” is an important but problematic concept. On the one hand, it defines avant-garde art’s primary mode of signification or meaning making. On the other, it has over time bound together radically contradictory meanings. One of the thorniest aspects of allegory has to do with the relationship between appropriation and meaning. When an artwork appropriates a fragment from the culture around it—be it a literary theme, a visual style, a material object, or a visual source cut from another form of representation—does that work thereby convey to its various spectators significations drawn from the original work and its context? Or does it, on the contrary, substitute new meanings for the fragment’s original ones?

    Walter Benjamin argued the latter even if his actual practices of interpretation sometimes contradicted this contention. Discussing the things that the allegorist appropriates, Benjamin argued that the appropriated object

    is now quite incapable of emanating any meaning or significance of its own; such significance as it has, it acquires from the allegorist. He places it within it, and stands behind it; not in a psychological but in an ontological sense. In his hands the object becomes something different; through it he speaks of something different and for him it becomes a key to the realm of hidden knowledge; and he reveres it as the emblem of this.[9]

    Numerous theorists of modern and contemporary art have agreed with this understanding of allegorical appropriation. Peter Bürger, for example, Page  123argued that avant-garde art continues aestheticism's emancipation of art from subject matter. Directly citing Benjamin's theory of allegory, Bürger insisted that avant-garde art negates the original contextual meanings of its various appropriated parts.[10] Instead of drawing the viewer’s or the reader’s attention to what is actually represented, the parts of the avant-garde artwork put the focus on the conceptual principles behind the work’s construction.[11] As a result, there is no room for subject matter in Bürger’s account of the historical avant-garde.

    Höch’s photomontages, on the other hand, support both forms of reference; at times they seem to refer to specific historical individuals and contexts, while at other times they seem to use the photographic fragment as a representative of a type and thus in a manner that does not seem historically specific. But can we really assume that Höch intended to trigger knowledge of real people and particular historical situations through her photomontages? As suggested by the growing interest in visual literacy as promoted by the mass media during the Weimar Republic, the answer is yes. Moreover, as suggested by her photomontages, she also saw the New Woman as one of the central figures promoting this development, an insight that was shared by other cultural producers working in the mass media.

    As scholars have noted, the Weimar Republic represents a moment in which the modern language of photojournalism was first developed, where newspaper and magazine layout became a significant form of creative endeavor, where the photograph became a primary mode of communication, and where much thought was devoted to analyzing these transformations.[12] Magazines and illustrated newspapers, it was argued, promoted a new form of reading that was impatient, distracted, and tailored to an active life.[13] This was a mode of apprehension in which, for better or for worse, bits of reading time were snatched amid other activities. As a result, reading materials became more visual, fragmented, and emphatic, thereby beginning a development in which changes in reading habits and changes in material culture mutually reinforced one another and contributed to lasting transformations in the ways in which ordinary Germans received and processed information. Periodical covers, for example, were changed in order to address the new, supposedly less-attentive reader. Whereas before the war they had featured illustrations, single posterlike photographs began to be used more and more during the Weimar Republic, with a prominent series title above the image to lodge the periodical brand in the reader’s consciousness and a caption below it to explain its significance. Articles, moreover, became shorter and were increasingly broken up by Page  124photographs, illustrations, and captions. In addition, images became less closely connected to the texts. Now, instead of directly illustrating the text all the time, pictures could also function as amplifications of the article and represent aspects of the subject to which the text only alluded. Pictures, furthermore, became the primary means of communicating meaning—although few believed that they could function easily without some text—and many argued that a largely visual mode of understanding the world was becoming dominant.

    As suggested by The Beautiful Girl, Höch associated the cyborgian New Woman with this new, more “distracted” consumption of montages of images and texts that characterized the experience of reading illustrated magazines and newspapers, a mode of perception that was strongly debated. In 1927, for example, Siegfried Kracauer argued that the illustrated newspapers—whose aim, he quipped, was “the complete reproduction of the world accessible to the photographic apparatus”—promoted a profound loss of historical understanding.[14] Because they merely represented topical subjects wrenched out of their original contexts and juxtaposed without being given a new, historically informed significance or structure, “the flood of photos sweeps away the dams of memory. . . . Never before has a period known so little about itself. In the hands of the ruling society, the invention of illustrated magazines is one of the most powerful means of organizing a strike against understanding.”[15] Benjamin, on the other hand, argued in 1936 that the distracted mode of perception that characterized the experience of film, illustrated magazines, and architecture was potentially revolutionary.[16] It was a mode of perception that was tactile (as opposed to optical), habitual, and collective, and as such it was much more suited to the new tasks that confronted human awareness at turning points of history. Although Benjamin never explained how this not-fully-conscious form of perception allowed human beings to achieve revolutionary consciousness, he clearly defined how distracted perception helped to mobilize the masses and condition people to the increased threats to life and limb characteristic of modern life, a conditioning that it achieved by exposing people to the shock effects of montage. For Höch, as we have seen, the distracted perceptual experience promoted by the modern media was a mixed bag, a way of apprehending things that could be used for both revolutionary and reactionary ends.

    The Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, or BIZ, provides a good example of the new modes of distracted viewing and reading to which Höch was responding through her photomontages—and not simply because it was Page  125the illustrated newspaper from which Höch appropriated a number of her photomontage fragments. Founded in 1892 and taken over in 1894 by the Ullstein Verlag, the publishing company for which Höch worked between 1916 and 1926, the BIZ was the most popular illustrated newspaper in Germany during the Weimar Republic. The weekly paper regularly published photographs encompassing a wide variety of different subjects, including contemporary political and social events, the lives of politicians and celebrities, war and other forms of social and political unrest, natural catastrophes, foreign lands and people, scenes from popular films and theatrical productions, new technologies, and, significantly, all forms of modern life. Its articles were generally short and interspersed with photographs, illustrations, and captions that broke up and amplified the blocks of printed text. It also published poetry and serialized novels, and it had regular advertising and humor sections. Although it is commonly thought to have been a newsmagazine, it did not present an overall or balanced account of the news of each week; rather, its coverage was determined by the interest and appeal of its visual materials. As Kurt Korff, the editor in chief from 1905 to 1933, explained, “The BIZ adopted the editorial principle that all events should be presented in pictures with an eye to the visually dramatic and excluding everything that is visually uninteresting. It was not the importance of the material that determined the selection and acceptance of pictures, but solely the allure of the photo itself.” [17] The BIZ was thus in many ways a central medium through which the German public was exposed to the new and developing practices of photomontage, here understood in a broad sense as juxtaposing photographs with texts and other forms of illustrative materials. Despite its emphasis on visual communication, juxtaposing words with images, and breaking up and shortening blocks of text, however, the BIZ’s layout was for the most part designed so as to smooth over the dislocations produced by its strategies of montage. The experience of simultaneously (and distractedly) viewing and reading was intended to be new and exciting, but, like the BIZ’s advertisements, it was also expected to be easily intelligible and not thus radically transformative of the status quo.

    Significantly, as suggested by the following brief inventory of articles and photomontages that appeared in 1919, the BIZ also published features that were self-reflexive, promoted visual literacy, and taught its growing audience about the new forms of optical communication being introduced by the mass press. The cover of the February 16 issue, for example, stressed the new speed of information delivery. It depicted newspapers being unloaded from a two-cockpit biplane with a caption that noted that Page  126the BZ am Mittag, another Ullstein publication, was the first newspaper to be delivered regularly in this way.[18] An article from August 17, on the other hand, instructed readers on “the art of instantaneous photography,” detailing all the considerations that went into creating successful candid images of modern life.[19] Underwater lights and observation tools were featured in a November 9 article on new technological developments; the profession and technical tricks of newspaper photographers and their contributions to “a change in our way of thinking” were discussed on December 14; and a brief history of newspapers’ roles in fostering crime prevention, world exploration, technological advance, economic growth, political engagement, democracy, bureaucratic reform, and public works was printed on December 28.[20]

    Contests for cash prizes were also used to promote visual literacy, their puzzles designed to encourage readers to engage with and comprehend the new ways of combining photographs and texts. A Christmas contest announced on December 28, 1919, for example, awarded cash prizes to viewers who could identify six people or objects photographed from above (fig. 6.3).[21] In terms of images, the layout of the contest page is evenly balanced from side to side and weighted slightly toward the bottom, the main element of dynamism coming from the central circle with its strong diagonal orientation. The text is presented in three small pieces on the top, left, and right, all of which are surrounded on three sides by larger images. The written material reinforces the idea that we generally perceive things from a normal or usual vantage point, telling us that the world appears differently from “above” and that from the perspective of a zeppelin or airplane things reveal “a completely different form.” Readers were encouraged to identify with the nontraditional viewpoint implied by the photographs by describing what was depicted and submitting their answers. If they identified the images correctly, the BIZ promised, they might be rewarded; out of all the correct answers, up to eleven lucky entries would be chosen to receive cash prizes ranging from fifty to three hundred marks. The answers, moreover, which were published a month later, were all cyborgian or technological in subject matter: a photographer hunched over his camera, a soldier wearing an assault helmet, a fireman in a smoke helmet, a coffee mill, a lantern, and an arc lamp. Not only did the editors encourage their readers to identify with a technologically enhanced viewpoint associated with planes, zeppelins, and tall modern buildings, but, through their choice of photographs, they also suggested the ubiquity of machines and technologically augmented human beings in modern life.

    Page  127
    Fig. 6.3.: "Christmas Prize Puzzle: The World as Seen from Above," Berliner Illustrirte
Zeitung (Berlin Illustrated Newspaper) 28, no. 52 (December 28, 1919): 544.
    Fig. 6.3.

    "Christmas Prize Puzzle: The World as Seen from Above," Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung (Berlin Illustrated Newspaper) 28, no. 52 (December 28, 1919): 544.

    Page  128

    Cyborgian images, as mentioned earlier, are images that are reflexively concerned with the impact of technology on the human body and mind. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, however, Ernst Jünger was already pursuing a very disturbing line of thought about the transformation of perception by the mass media. Citing aerial photographs like the ones used by the BIZ editors, Jünger argued that film and photography were altering human physiology and ethics, producing people with a “second, colder consciousness.”

    The photograph stands outside the realm of sensibility. It has something of a telescopic quality: one can tell that the object photographed was seen by an insensitive and invulnerable eye. That eye registers just as well a bullet in midair or the moment in which a man is torn apart by an explosion. This is our characteristic way of seeing, and photography is nothing other than an instrument of this new propensity in human nature.[22]

    By developing a second consciousness, human beings would learn to see themselves as objects, stand “outside the sphere of pain,” and, finally, evolve an objectified—that is, more pragmatic and less feeling—worldview.[23] Although the BIZ editors probably did not share Jünger’s authoritarian understanding of the specific changes that new photographic angles and perspectives would foster in human consciousness, it is clear that they found the novel, nontraditional viewpoints exciting and expected that their readers would derive pleasure from them.

    A later contest in visual literacy, announced by the BIZ on July 5, 1925, also attempted to foster an identification with new forms of distracted perception—in this case, the recognition and naming of image fragments. In addition, it simultaneously brought in a new focus on gender. It promised its viewers potential cash prizes if they could successfully identify photographic fragments depicting partial faces and body parts of the famous, including Charlie Chaplin, Dr. Hugo Eckener, Gerhard Hauptmann, Jack Dempsey, and Benito Mussolini (fig. 6.4).[24] This contest is particularly significant as it also implies that—as photomontage developed during the Weimar Republic—an expectation arose in the popular press that certain readers could be expected to recall the identity of a represented person or object from a fragmentary image presented in a photomontage. It thus suggests that during the 1920s Höch might also have assumed that at least some of the viewers of her works would remember the original subjects, meanings, and contexts depicted in the cut-up printed photographs they

    Page  129
    Fig. 6.4.: "Oh, These Children!" Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung 34, no. 27 (July 5, 1925):
    Fig. 6.4.

    "Oh, These Children!" Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung 34, no. 27 (July 5, 1925): 846.

    Page  130

    contained and, furthermore, that they would call on these memories when interpreting them.[25]

    The contest page’s layout and strategies of communication are noteworthy. Not only do they reveal a debt to both Dada and constructivist montage, but they are also fairly radical for a mainstream newspaper of the time. The photographic images are ambiguous, sharp-edged, and strangely shaped; two of the largest are pasted in at an angle, and the meaning of the page must be created by connecting elements across three different media: a handwritten title and drawn top image of a little girl holding scissors and a male portrait, the oddly shaped photographic fragments depicting pieces of important male figures, and columns of text anchoring the bottom of the page. In addition, the contest reveals and obscures a central tension subtending the rise of both photomontage and the mass media during the Weimar Republic, namely, the role of the New Woman in mass society.

    Although the photomontage contest page depicts a little girl and not a New Woman, the girl could easily be interpreted as a stand-in for the latter figure. This is the case because of the girl’s clothing and chin-length haircut with bangs, which evoke the New Woman’s frequently girlish appearance, short skirt, and bobbed or pageboy hairstyle. In addition, like the New Woman, the little girl is represented as both the subject and the object of the mass media, and, like the New Woman, she is shown as active, powerful, and even threatening vis-à-vis the New Men whose images she transforms. Read in this way, the contest page communicates contradictory messages. On the one hand, the New Woman is empowered through the images; she is represented as the creator of photomontages, and powerful men are shown to be subject to her ability to cut and splice. On the other hand, she is trivialized through the written text, which characterizes her as “Little Katherine, the daughter of one of our editors,” who, while unattended, has “destroyed” the masculine portraits on her father’s table and who now requires the BIZ’s readership to restore meaning to an assemblage of fragments. Although they have a clear and powerful effect, her actions are suggested to be without thought or purpose. As was also the case with Höch’s The Beautiful Girl, a female figure is simultaneously represented as both a producer and a depicted subject of the new mass media, potentially powerful but brainless at the same time.

    The BIZ’s representation of the female photomontagist suggests that with the rise of the mass media women come to define not only themselves but also men in ever more powerful ways. As was suggested by the conjunction of the two photomontages by Höch analyzed earlier, technology Page  131made men and women more interrelated as well as more able to affect one another. The contest seems to acknowledge this new more powerful interrelationship while at the same time partially obscuring the insight through the implied narrative, which blurs the lines between the powerful New Woman whose existence radically destabilizes the traditional patriarchal order and a silly little girl who can still be controlled by masculine discourses and institutions. In addition, the contest further obscures this insight through aspects of its heterogeneous printed form, which identifies the little girl and the expression of paternal condescension with historically earlier forms of representation—namely, drawing and handwriting—as opposed the modern photography and type, which characterize the masculine sections of the page. Indeed, in the contest's narrative, the New Woman appears to have lost her ability to splice, another sign of patriarchal fears of the New Woman's power to define both herself and others in the age of technological reproducibility.

    As indicated by the specific montage strategies and self-reflexive tendencies of her photomontages, Höch responded to the new modes of simultaneous seeing and reading promoted by the illustrated magazines and newspapers, and to some extent she incorporated forms and strategies derived from these new types of print journalism into her art. Contrary to even the most radical examples in the establishment press (such as the BIZ’s contests promoting visual literacy), however, Höch used photomontage to encourage her spectators to employ their distracted modes of perception to dismantle the status quo and reveal the hidden political agendas, social ideologies, and “ideal” psychological types that the mass media promulgated. Thus, although Höch was in many ways inspired by the German culture industry, she also remained fundamentally opposed to it, seeking, as she did, to turn the strategies of mass communication and advertising against the mass media itself. As Höch demonstrated through her art, the mass media and new practices of photomontage potentially empowered the New Woman by allowing her to redefine herself and criticize the patriarchal figures that still attempted to dismiss and control her.


    Some of the ideas that inform this essay are treated at greater length in chapter 5 of my book, The Dada Cyborg: Visions of the New Human in Weimar Berlin (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009).

    1. Atina Grossmann, “Girlkultur, or Thoroughly Rationalized Female: A New Woman in Germany?” in Women in Culture and Politics: A Century of Change, ed. Page  132Judith Friedlander, Blanche Wiesen Cook, Alice Kessler-Harris, and Carroll Smith-Rosenberg (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 62—80.return to text

    2. Hanne Bergius, “Dada Triumphs!” Dada Berlin, 1917–1923, Artistry of Polarities (New Haven: G. K. Hall, 2003), 113–88.return to text

    3. Francis M. Naumann, New York Dada, 1915–1923 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994), 162–63.return to text

    4. Maria Makela, “Notes to Plate 9,” in Peter Boswell, Maria Makela, Carolyn Lanchner, and Kristin Makholm, The Photomontages of Hannah Höch (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1996), 34.return to text

    5. Ibid., 35.return to text

    6. See László Moholy-Nagy, Painting Photography Film (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1969), 106.return to text

    7. On Herschel, see Naomi Rosenblum, A World History of Photography, 3rd ed. (New York: Abbeville Press, 1997), 27–29, 32, 46–47, 197.return to text

    8. Peter Nisbet, “A Cut-Up at the Dada Fair,” Boston Book Review 4, no. 3 (April 1997), 8–9.return to text

    9. Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama (1925, 1928) (New York: Verso, 1990), 184.return to text

    10. Peter Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde (1974) (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 69.return to text

    11. Ibid., 79–80.return to text

    12. See, for example, Tim N. Gidal, Modern Photojournalism: Origin and Evolution, 1910–1933 (New York: Macmillan, 1973), 5–30; Fred Richin, “Close Witnesses: The Involvement of the Photojournalist,” in A New History of Photography, ed. Michel Frizot (Cologne: Könemann, 1998), 591–611 and in particular 599–600; and Torsten Palmér, The Weimar Republic Through the Lens of the Press, ed. Hendrik Neubauer (Cologne: Könemann, 2000), 4–37.return to text

    13. See Edlef Köppen, “The Magazine as a Sign of the Times” (1925), Kurt Korff, “The Illustrated Magazine” (1927), and Johannes Molzahn, “Stop Reading! Look!” (1928), all in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, ed. Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 644–45, 646–47, 648–49.return to text

    14. Siegfried Kracauer, “Photography” (1927), in Siegfried Kracauer, The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), 57–58.return to text

    15. Ibid., 58.return to text

    16. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), in Walter Benjamin, Illuminations (New York: Schocken, 1969), 238–41, 250.return to text

    17. Kurt Korff, “The Illustrated Magazine,” in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, ed. Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 646–47.return to text

    18. “Zeitungs-Flugdienst Berlin-Weimar,” Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung 28, no. 7 (February 16, 1919): 49.return to text

    Page  133

    19. “Die Kunst der Moment-Photografie,” Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung 28, no. 33 (August 17, 1919): 318–19.return to text

    20. “Interessantes aus dem Reich der Technik,” Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung 28, no. 45 (November 9, 1919): 462–63; “Der Photograf als Journalist,” Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung 28, no. 50 (December 14, 1919): 522–23; “Die Zeitung als Pionier,” Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung 28, no. 52 (December 28, 1919): 546–47.return to text

    21. “Die Welt von Oben Gesehen,” Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung 28, no. 52 (December 28, 1919): 544; “Auflösung unseres Preisrätzels aus Nr. 52,” Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung 29, no. 5 (February 1, 1920): 55.return to text

    22. Ernst Jünger, “Photography and the ‘Second Consciousness,’” excerpt from “On Pain” (1934), in Photography in the Modern Era: European Documents and Critical Writings, 1913–1940, ed. Christopher Phillips (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art and Aperture, 1989), 208.return to text

    23. Ibid., 207–8.return to text

    24. “O, diese Kinder!” Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung 34, no. 27 (July 5, 1925): 846; “Ergebnis unserer Preisaufgabe aus Nr. 27,” Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung 34, no. 31 (July 31, 1925): 991.return to text

    25. After the First International Dada Fair in Berlin in 1920, Höch did not exhibit her photomontages again until the landmark Film and Photo exhibition in Stuttgart in 1929. Although she continued to make photomontages throughout the Weimar Republic (and, indeed, until her death in 1978), she appears to have regarded photomontage as a more private pursuit during most of the Weimar years. Thus the only audience for her photomontages during most of the 1920s was a private one.return to text

    Page  134

    7 Acting the Lesbian: Les Amies by Germaine Krull

    Sometime between 1922 and 1924, Germaine Krull (1897–1985), a young female photographer, decided to create two portfolios of double female nudes in interiors, titled Akte (Nudes) and Les Amies (Girlfriends). While Akte presented the women in flirtatious poses, Les Amies reveals overtly sexual lesbian scenes. Produced in Berlin, a center for experimental sexual politics and advocacy for homosexual rights in the interwar years, these photographs reveal one private response to the possibilities of the city. Seizing a role previously allowed only to men, Krull photographed explicit sexual material yet posed her models in ways that curiously frustrate the expectations of the male gaze and of the genre of erotic or pornographic material. The compositions and costumes suggest playful enactments or temporary diversions rather than statements of identity,[1] yet once circulated and viewed by others they risked charges of pornography. Indeed, reproductions of three photographs were ultimately included in the extensive study Die Erotik in der Photographie (The Erotic in Photography) (1931–32), where they were reinserted into the dominant discourses on erotic images.

    Throughout her life, Krull avidly seized the new professional and personal opportunities available to women, as Kim Sichel has detailed. From 1915 to 1917 or 1918, Krull studied photography at the Munich Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Photographie, and by 1918 she had established a studio in Munich. Following the Bavarian socialist revolution of 1918, Krull was expelled from Bavaria in February 1920 for her attempt to smuggle two communists across the border to Austria. From January 1921 to January 1922, she traveled with her husband, Samuel Levit, to the Soviet Union, where she attended the Third World Congress of the Communist International in Moscow. During this time she was jailed twice as an antirevolutionary Page  135and ultimately expelled by the Soviets. After separating from Levit and recuperating from typhus, Krull moved to Berlin, where with funds from her new lover, Hans Basler, she established a photography studio jointly with Kurt Hübschmann.[2]

    In Berlin, Krull turned her attention from politics back to photography, specifically to dance and nude photographs, including the homoerotic subjects of this essay. In 1918, she had contributed seven pictorialist female nudes to a portfolio copublished by Krull, Josef Pécsi, and Wanda von Debschitz-Kunowski.[3] In Berlin, Krull created a group of nude studies of her sister Berthe and another group of photographs of a woman known as Freia together with a second woman, using the visual conventions of Freikörperkultur or nudist movement photographs.[4]

    In Akte and Les Amies the subject and poses threaten the position of the photographs as art. The existing copies of the portfolios are not dated, and the exact dates of the photography sessions are unknown. In her autobiography, Krull discussed the production of some commemorative Lenin albums, then mentioned her interest in creating “galant” photographs.[5] This suggests that the portfolios were executed in 1924 sometime after Lenin’s death on January 21. Krull first discussed her concept with Gretel Hübschmann, the wife of her studio partner, Kurt Hübschmann.

    In that period, I wanted to make something new; I thought of taking some blatant photographs, perhaps galant. Gretel Hubschmann found it a good idea, so we took a series of photographs of semi-nude figures, but I wasn’t happy with them. We also tried to take some fashion photos for which I felt no inclination. Gretel, however, liked them a lot.[6]

    Seeking to “make something new,” Krull turned to “galant” photographs, a euphemism that could refer to a range of depictions of illicit sexual activity and recalled French erotic art and literature.[7]

    With the founding of the Weimar Republic, censorship had ended, but the earlier laws on obscenity remained in effect. The constitution of the Weimar Republic, signed on August 11, 1919, clearly stated in article 118, paragraph 2, “Censorship does not take place.”[8] Yet the paragraph continued, permitting laws regulating film and advocating the protection of youth from “Schund- und Schmutzliteratur” (trash and dirt), that is, violent and erotic literature.[9] Moreover, the existing legal code from 1872 remained in effect, including paragraph 184, which criminalized the sale and distribution of obscene material, including visual material.[10]

    Page  136

    Nevertheless, if Krull wished to imitate “galant” photographs, they were widely available in Berlin before the First World War and the supply continued after the war ended. Gary Stark detailed the extent of pornographic material circulating in Germany during the Wilhelmine Empire.[11] The diversity of material continued into the 1920s; the prevalent types of pornography were summarized in 1921 in two reports on the German Central Police Department for the Prosecution of Indecent Texts, Images and Advertisements, known as Polunbi. The Polunbi collection included about seven thousand examples of photographs depicting “sexual activities in all imaginable modes.”[12] Loose photographs were stored in albums organized thematically, including a section for “homosexual and autoerotic pictures.”[13] The Polunbi albums may also have placed female homoerotic images within the category of female nudes. The report estimated that at least several hundred thousand pornographic photographs were in circulation. They were usually postcard size and cost three marks or more.[14]

    One version of the portfolio, Akte, currently in a private collection in Munich, contains twelve photographs within a gray-brown cardboard portfolio cover hand lettered with the title. The prints are all the same dimensions, some vertical, some horizontal, 16.5 x 22.2 cm, and mounted on a heavyweight cream canvas-finish paper. By choosing this size print, Krull distinguished her works from the usual postcard dimensions of pornographic photographs, subtly reinforcing the position of her prints as works of fine art.[15] The individual prints are not numbered; whether Krull intended the photographs to follow in a specific sequence is unknown. With standard Bubikopf bobbed hairstyles and simple white slips, the two young models could represent any New Woman. Standing in Krull’s studio against a simple white wall or seated on a divan draped in a paisley shawl, they pose in various casual positions, naked or partly draped by a slip or a shawl (fig. 7.1). Despite their partial undress, only one plate suggests an embrace, and even this does not imply a sexual act. Sichel argues that such images “could have been seen in an academic art setting, despite their playfulness.”[16]

    In contrast, Les Amies, shot around the same time and with at least one if not both of the same models, clearly enacts a lesbian sexual encounter. The cover of Les Amies is a similar gray cardboard portfolio, hand lettered in black ink with the title. The choice of the French term, Amies, instead of the German, Freundinnen, suggests a conscious reference to French “galant” photographs. Again the images are not numbered, leaving the sequence unknown. A portfolio of Les Amies in a private collection in

    Page  137
    Fig. 7.1.: Germaine Krull, Untitled, from Akte (Nudes), gelatin silver print, ca. 1922—
24. (Dietmar Siegert Collection.) (Copyright Estate Germaine Krull, Fotografische
Sammlung, Museum Folkwang, Essen.)
    Fig. 7.1.

    Germaine Krull, Untitled, from Akte (Nudes), gelatin silver print, ca. 1922— 24. (Dietmar Siegert Collection.) (Copyright Estate Germaine Krull, Fotografische Sammlung, Museum Folkwang, Essen.)

    California contains eleven photographs in addition to the portfolio case. It is possible that some versions of the portfolio included twelve photographs as a gelatin silver print with the same two models, clad in the same clothes, was listed at auction in 2005.[17]

    Within Les Amies, although the sequence is not certain, the different costumes and props suggest different moments in a sexual encounter. If we add the image listed at auction in 2005, then the sequence starts with both women fully dressed in coats and cloche hats, seated on the divan, and smoking. The next image might be that in which both women are fully dressed though lying in a tight embrace on the divan, as the skirt of one woman falls to reveal her thigh, on which her companion rests her hand. As the models gradually undress, their clothing suggests masculine and feminine role-playing. One of the women wears knee-length breeches, a white tailored shirt, and a tie suggesting a masculine role in the scenario (fig. 7.2). Nevertheless, her high-heeled suede shoes make her fashionable and feminine, not actually cross-dressing. The second woman in this image wears a dark, gauzy, lace-trimmed negligée, much more sophisticated than the

    Page  138
    Fig. 7.2.: Germaine Krull, Untitled, from Les Amies, gelatin silver print, ca. 1922—24.
(Private collection.) (Copyright Estate Germaine Krull, Fotografische Sammlung,
Museum Folkwang, Essen.)
    Fig. 7.2.

    Germaine Krull, Untitled, from Les Amies, gelatin silver print, ca. 1922—24. (Private collection.) (Copyright Estate Germaine Krull, Fotografische Sammlung, Museum Folkwang, Essen.)

    simple white slips in Akte. The contrast between masculine and feminine styles continues in another print, in which the femininely clothed woman swoons horizontally on the divan, as the woman in breeches holds her in a commanding embrace.

    Krull’s choice of clothing for her models, especially the selection of knee-length breeches for the model playing a masculine role, evokes contemporary fashions yet exceeds general usage. Wearing menswear tailored Page  139jackets, ties, and short hair and smoking cigarettes had been signs of "deviant" women since the 1880s, yet the signification shifted dramatically in the 1920s with the expansion of the New Woman beyond a restricted group of female students and professionals. In the 1887 edition of hisPsychopathia sexualis, Richard von Krafft-Ebing stated that female homosexuals wear masculine haircuts and tailored clothing.[18] By the 1920s, masculine clothing styles such as white shirts, ties, and tailored jackets were no longer clear indicators of transgressive masculinity or same-sex orientation in women but could also be merely signs of the latest fashions. As Laura Doan has stated, in 1920s Britain, “boyish or mannish garb for women did not register any one stable spectatorial effect.”[19] Doan argues that in the mid-1920s, masculine dress for women signified merely the height of fashion and bohemianism rather than any coherent sexual identity.[20] Patrice Petro analyzed the changing representations of masculine styles for women in the pages of the leading German fashion magazine, Die Dame, and noted that from 1924 to the end of the decade articles debated the “masculinization” of the New Woman, portrayed with cropped hair and menswear jackets. However by 1931 the masculine fashions had disappeared from Die Dame in favor of extremely feminine styles.[21]

    Yet Krull’s choice to depict a model in breeches rather than a tailored skirt departs from representations of the New Woman, and suggests a more playful reference to theatrical cross-dressing or fancy dress.[22] In 1924, New Women and lesbian or Third Sex women were still typically depicted wearing a skirt rather than trousers, which would indicate transvestism rather than same-sex identity.[23]Representations of lesbian bars such as Rudolf Schlichter’s watercolor Damenkneipe (Women’s Bar), circa 1923–25, depict even the most masculine of women wearing skirts.[24] In October 1924, an issue of the journal for lesbian readers, Die Freundin, included an image of two women dancing together, both with short Bubikopf hairstyles and wearing skirts with their tailored jackets and ties.[25] As late as 1924, even within the pages of this journal for lesbians, masculine lesbians did not wear trousers.

    In the remaining eight photographs in Les Amies, the models are naked except for their dark stockings and sometimes their shoes. The overt sexuality of the models is emphasized by the stockings, unlike the bare legs of the models in Akte. The depiction of stockings had long been considered a sign distancing a figure from the conventions of the ideal, asexual nude based on classical models.[26] The choice of the dark stockings also emphasizes the contemporaneity of the models. In contrast, photographs of nude

    Page  140
    Fig. 7.3.: Germaine Krull, Untitled, from Les Amies, gelatin silver print, ca. 1922—24. (Private collection.) (Copyright Estate Germaine Krull, Fotografische Sammlung, Museum Folkwang, Essen.)
    Fig. 7.3.

    Germaine Krull, Untitled, from Les Amies, gelatin silver print, ca. 1922—24. (Private collection.) (Copyright Estate Germaine Krull, Fotografische Sammlung, Museum Folkwang, Essen.)

    figures specifically described as models for artists, and therefore intended as ideal citations of classical models, are absent any clothing that would imply a contemporary existence.[27]

    In contrast to the conversational poses of the models in Akte, most of the poses for Les Amies are tangles of intricately interlocking limbs in which sexual acts are posed but not entirely convincing. Some positions appear more sculptural than sexual (figs. 7.2–7.4). One image suggests cunnilingus, yet the head is placed slightly too far away.[28] Another image enacts a “69” pose of double cunnilingus, yet again the heads are ever so slightly out of position and the composition becomes a protosurrealist study of a nude torso from behind, with dark stockings at right and left (fig. 7.4). One more image presents a clear view of one woman’s crotch, as one leg flails above her.[29] The pose would seem to prevent sexual satisfaction, although it provides the viewer with a brief glimpse of vaginal lips.

    Throughout Les Amies, Krull repeatedly obscures the models’ anatomy, oscillating between inviting the spectator’s desiring gaze and frustrating the clarity such a gaze requires. As Abigail Solomon-Godeau observed

    Page  141
    Fig. 7.4.: Germaine Krull, Untitled, from Les Amies, gelatin silver print, ca. 1922—24.(Private collection.) (Copyright Estate Germaine Krull, Fotografische Sammlung, Museum Folkwang, Essen.)
    Fig. 7.4.

    Germaine Krull, Untitled, from Les Amies, gelatin silver print, ca. 1922—24.(Private collection.) (Copyright Estate Germaine Krull, Fotografische Sammlung, Museum Folkwang, Essen.)

    about the "lesbian" scenes staged for nineteenth-century daguerreotypes, "[W]omen together . . . are typically posed in ways that provide the viewer with maximum visual access to their bodies."[30] These conventions continue into the twentieth century, yet Krull’s models fold their arms across their faces, tilt their heads so their pageboy hairstyles hide their eyes,[31] and press their bodies so close together that their breasts are partly hidden. Even more surprising, in not a single image does a model directly gaze out at the camera. The standard acknowledgment of the viewer of erotic material, the address to the third party outside the image, never takes place. These models remain hermetically sealed in the studio, failing to address the frustrated desiring gaze, to symbolically invite the third party to join the sexual adventures taking place. Despite the direct view of the crotch in one image and the depictions of cunnilingus, the eroticism is contained between the two women, with no imaginary space for a third, presumably male, viewer to enter.

    Psychoanalytic theories of the gaze have defined spectator positions in gendered terms, with the male position or gaze described as active and Page  142aligned with the desire to possess the female object, in contrast to the female, passive position that would allow only the desire to become the object. As research into queer viewing positions has argued, these viewing positions are not exclusively aligned with the sex of the viewer: a man can take on the desire to become the object when viewing a homoerotic scene.[32]

    The compositional structure of Krull’s Les Amies invites a desiring gaze that is narcissistic, a gaze that desires to be one of the women while rejecting the possibility of possessing them both. This argument extends Sichel’s observation that Krull dismissed “the male gaze of Weimar culture in favor of a female gaze” and her emphasis on the gazes within the images as the female models view each other.[33] In Les Amies, there is no space for a third party: the only possibility is to become one of the women. Moreover the specific acts depicted suggest a woman’s knowledge of how women have sex with women rather than a man’s imagined projection. The repeated emphasis on how the hands are placed in each image and sexual position stresses the crucial importance of the hands as instruments in female-female sex. In contrast, the absence of a dildo suggests that there is no need for a penis or indeed for the symbolic phallus. In comparison, Christian Schad’s satirical drawing of two woman engaged in oral sex, Sisters, circa 1929, includes an enormous dildo, which has been discarded in the corner, simultaneously emphasizing the desire for the phallus while comically bemoaning its dismissal.[34]

    By photographing erotic scenes, Krull not only constructed the desiring gaze but also placed herself in the position of that gaze, taking on privileges previously permitted only to male photographers. The trope of the male artist desiring his female model, of the creative act as intimately connected to the sexual act, goes back as far as the classical tale of Pygmalion and echoes throughout Western art since the Renaissance. Similarly, for photographers, Solomon-Godeau notes that “photographic activity was itself intuitively perceived as sexually charged.”[35] Although there is evidence of women’s involvement in manufacturing and distributing pornographic photographs before and during the First World War,[36] these women remained on the margins of commercial photography. For an ambitious, professionally trained woman photographer such as Krull to create erotic and even pornographic material required her to transgress the definitions of middle-class respectability.

    Krull’s motivation for creating Akte and Les Amies remains unclear: her later account of wanting to make “galant” photographs remains the most Page  143viable explanation. Yet that decision was made within the context of her unorthodox—and temporarily bisexual—personal life and the artistic possibilities in Berlin in the 1920s.

    In her later biography, Krull mentioned various male lovers across the years, as well as one female lover, Elsa, with whom she had an affair during her time in Berlin and into 1925 after she left Berlin for Amsterdam and then Paris: “At that time, I also had a friend, Elsa, who came to help me when I had too much to do. Elsa was the only woman in my life for whom I had feelings that were more than friendly; she was married and had a lover, and for that reason didn’t have much time for me.”[37] Dur8ng an account of a visit to Paris with Elsa, most likely in 1925, Krull elaborated further.[38]

    I never loved a woman, but with Elsa the joy of feeling together was great; she too never left my side. We would have laughed if someone had described us as lesbians; Elsa was so profoundly mine that the physical issue did not count, it had very little importance. She had never experienced an orgasm, not with her husband nor with her lover, and thus it had to be me to give her pleasure. Everything was very simple and we were happy to share a secret.[39]

    Krull’s dismissal of the term lesbian reflects the fluidity of female sexual identity in the 1920s, especially for adventurous New Women. According to an interview conducted by Ilse Kokula, one woman reported that it was “chic” to pretend to be lesbian in the 1920s.[40] There is no evidence that Krull had more than one same-sex affair.[41] At the same time as her affair with Elsa, she was having an affair with Joris Ivens, whom she later married.[42] Similarly, as Krull relates, Elsa also had not only a husband but also a male lover in addition to her relationship with Krull.

    At the same time that Krull was making photographs with explicit same-sex female imagery, the visibility of women who loved women was reaching a new point of public depiction, public concern, and individual practice. The lesbian or Third Sex woman was a subject for popular caricatures, novels, and fine art editions in addition to erotic or pornographic photographs.

    In 1923, comic representations of both male and female homosexuality were published in the popular illustrated journal Simplicissimus by Karl Arnold as examples of the decadent nightlife of Berlin. Arnold’s “Berlin Pictures XXI” was subtitled “Schwuhl,” a term already in use to describe homosexuals.[43] Part of an ongoing series of comic Berlin scenes, “Schwuhl” represents a crowded nightclub, with three same-sex couples dancing Page  144in the crowd. AnotherSimplicissimus caricature by Arnold in the same year included male and female homosexuals (an effete young man and a masculine woman wearing a monocle) among the types observed “At the Bar.”[44] These caricatures indicate that by 1923 gay and lesbian bars were considered a routine sign of the decadence of Berlin, a status codified in 1931 when the humorous guidebook Führer durch das “lasterhafte” Berlin (Guide to “Depraved” Berlin) included sections on homosexual, lesbian and transvestite locales.[45]

    Popular German and international literature also included new accounts of lesbian subjects. In 1924, Alfred Döblin published Die beiden Freundinnen und ihr Giftmord (The Two Girlfriends and Their Murder by Poison), based on the criminal case of two working-class married women who had an affair and poisoned the husband of one of them. Victor Margueritte’s novel La Garçonne was published in Paris in 1922 and already translated into German by 1923.[46] La Garçonne recounts the misadventures of a wealthy bourgeois young woman who has an affair with a woman, then several affairs with men. A review of the German translation emphasized the similarity of experience between French and German women, describing the novel as a “depiction of the post-war young woman from the better classes, as she ‘eroticizes’ in the same way in Paris, London and Berlin.”[47]

    Female same-sex subjects were also depicted in the fine arts. In 1919, the limited-edition journal Arkadien published Paul Verlaine’s poem “Pensionnaires” together with an etching by Michel Fingesten depicting two young schoolgirls engaged in the cunnilingus metaphorically described in the text.[48]Lene Schneider-Kainer included several homoerotic double nudes in her illustrations of the ancient Greek dialogs of Lucian, Hetärengespräche (Courtesan Conversations), published in 1920.[49] For the second volume in the limited-edition luxury series, Der Venuswagen, the Fritz Gurlitt Verlag published Sappho oder die Lesbierinnen (Sappho or the Lesbians) with a voyeuristic text from the eighteenth century by Etienne de Jouy and seven contemporary etchings by Otto Schoff. In 1921, in a highly publicized trial, Wolfgang Gurlitt, publisher of the Venuswagen series, was charged with obscenity; although six of the nine volumes in the series were ruled to be obscene, Sappho or the Lesbians was dismissed as risqué but not obscene.[50]

    If indeed Krull photographed her two portfolios in 1924, the timing roughly coincides with the founding of a new journal, Die Freundin (The Girlfriend), established in August 1924 by Der Bund für Menschenrechte Page  145(League for Human Rights). The League for Human Rights was a political and social group advocating for homosexual rights. It published Die Freundin for its women members, as well as distributing the journal via newsstands throughout Germany.[51] Whether Krull socialized in lesbian groups such as the League for Human Rights is unknown; Sichel cites possible social overlaps among the lesbian actress Maximiliane Ackers, Krull, and Krull’s model Freia.[52]

    It is unclear how or if Germaine Krull planned to distribute the photographs in Akte and Les Amies and how many prints she made of each image, but a search of auction records over the last twenty years suggests that relatively few prints were created. The handmade quality and hand lettering of the portfolio covers for both Akte and Les Amies suggest that Krull never editioned the work or produced formal portfolios for widespread sale. A search of auction records located nine images from Les Amies that came up for sale between 1987 and 2008. For eight of these nine images, between one and three prints were listed. For the ninth image, there were five listings, but this may incorporate multiple listings for the same print after it failed to sell at earlier auctions.[53] It is likely that some prints were destroyed between 1933 and 1945 either in raids on pornographic material by the National Socialists or by the bombs of the Second World War. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to conclude that Krull may have printed at most five or so prints of each photograph, whether distributed in portfolios or as single images.

    Nevertheless, the reproduction of three photographs from Akte and Les Amies in Die Erotik in der Photographie (1931–32) demonstrates that the portfolios did circulate at least within a small group of collectors, and through this publication to a much larger audience. Published in three volumes, this extensive study records a range of erotic and pornographic photographs. The first volume of Die Erotik in der Photographie includes detailed scholarly articles on the history of erotic photography, market distribution techniques, censorship, and other topics. The subtitle of the study, The Historical Development of Nude Photography and Erotic Photographs and the Relationship to Psychopathia Sexualis, stresses the scholarly, scientific, and regulatory apparatus called on to justify the volumes. Nevertheless, the second and third volumes are heavily illustrated, suggesting that the eventual audience was less interested in scholarship than in viewing the pictures, which overwhelmingly depict single women, whether nude or in various stages of undress.[54] Both the second and third volumes include sections with “lesbian” themes, but the almost total absence of male homoerotic

    Page  146
    Fig. 7.5.: Germaine Krull, Boarding-School Friends, gelatin silver print, ca. 1922—24, published in Die Erotik in der Photographie, ed. Erich Wulffen et al. (Vienna: Verlag für Kulturforschung, 1931—32). (Agfa Photo-Historama Collection.) (Copyright
Estate Germaine Krull, Fotografische Sammlung, Museum Folkwang, Essen.)
    Fig. 7.5.

    Germaine Krull, Boarding-School Friends, gelatin silver print, ca. 1922—24, published in Die Erotik in der Photographie, ed. Erich Wulffen et al. (Vienna: Verlag für Kulturforschung, 1931—32). (Agfa Photo-Historama Collection.) (Copyright Estate Germaine Krull, Fotografische Sammlung, Museum Folkwang, Essen.)

    imagery is striking; only one double male nude image is included, and it is categorized as a flagellation scene rather than an image of male homosexual activity.[55]

    Three photographs by Germaine Krull were reproduced in Die Erotik in der Photographie, two from Akte and one from Les Amies, with titles reinserting these images into standard definitions of female-female sexuality. The third volume reproduces an image from Akte under the title “Boarding-School Friends” and lists the source as the Archive of the Institute of Sexual Studies in Vienna (fig. 7.5).[56] This title frames the image by locating it at a boarding school, a site often used as a fantasy locale, where lesbian attractions were seen as transitional moments of temporary homosexuality between young women inevitably destined for heterosexual adulthood after graduation. Simultaneously, the credit line placing the actual photograph in the collection of the Archive of the Institute of Sexual Studies in Vienna implies that this subject is indeed suitable for scientific study Page  147as an example of deviant sexuality. Another image fromAkte was reproduced in the third volume under the title “The Girlfriend’s Confession: Photo Study by a Berlin Photographer.”[57] In the image, the two women are partly draped, and their heads come together as one speaks to the other, but their faces are obscured, leaving any indication of the emotional content unclear. Reframing the conversation as a confession places the image within the putative drama of female relationships. It is possible that the publishers did not know the name of the photographer and attributed it to an unidentified male “Berlin Photographer.” Strangely, for none of these images is Krull credited, although many contemporary photographers are credited by name in these volumes.

    The editors of Die Erotik in der Photographie reproduced one image from Les Amies, selecting one of the least explicit, though overtly lesbian, scenes, the scene reproduced in this essay as figure 7.2, with one woman fully dressed, wearing breeches. Within Die Erotik in der Photographie, the plate is titled “Absentminded: Snapshot of a female homosexual character from a portfolio.”[58] By choosing this print from the portfolio, the editors selected an image that emphasized masculine and feminine roles among homosexuals yet is unusually passive in the poses of both women. It is also an image that would fit in the preliminary stage of the sequence of events, unlike several of the explicitly sexual poses.

    As discussed earlier, Krull’s photographs strikingly ignore the expectations of the desiring viewer, leaving faces and breasts obscured; this frustration of the gaze becomes even more apparent in comparison with the other female homoerotic images in Die Erotik in der Photographie. The image from Akte published under the title “Boarding-School Friends” is on a double-spread layout with three other double-female images, two credited to F. Bassler and one to Heinz von Perckhammer. In the other images the women are entirely nude and display breasts and faces in full either frontally or in profile. In contrast, in Krull’s image the foreground figure turns away from the viewer, her face hidden, and only one breast partly visible, while the background figure leans forward, her face partly hidden and again only one breast on partial display.

    Despite the scholarly apparatus, the text of Die Erotik in der Photographie rarely comments on the double-female nudes or lesbian scenes. The introduction to the second volume briefly mentions lesbian scenes in order to dismiss the argument that the number of certain types of images corresponds to the frequency of such activity.

    Page  148

    The frequent appearance of photos representing lesbian scenes surely cannot be explained by asserting that the circle of lesbian-inclined individuals is as excessively large as the number of photographs of this subject would lead one to surmise. The frequency of this motif can be explained more readily, in that two girls from the circles of such models can be more easily persuaded to allow themselves to be photographed in “harmless embraces,” than with a male partner in an obscene position. And the buyer of pornographic photographs, even without being interested in the lesbian representation as such, finds in such a photograph the pleasure that two female nudes offer him.[59]

    According to this assessment, lesbian scenes appealed to (male) purchasers of pornographic photographs merely because they depicted two women. Production of the images was also easier because female models were more willing to enact lesbian scenes, which were considered “harmless,” than to pose with a male model in an explicitly sexual scene.

    Germaine Krull’s creation of “galant” photographs in Akte and Les Amies depicted double-female nudes in titillating and even explicitly sexual poses. By placing herself in the role of the creator of such images, Krull transgressed the expectations of middle-class respectability, yet that transgression was consistent with the sexual fluidity of certain independent New Women in the 1920s. Choosing to photograph female-female scenes instead of female-male scenes, Krull relied on the putative “harmlessness” of such poses and the willingness of her models to undertake these poses in a sense of play. Nevertheless, Krull structured the compositions and poses in ways that frustrate a male gaze, denying the ability to enter the scene and allowing only the narcissistic ability to become one of the women, to take on the female role. These photographs reframe the conventions of pornographic images for men, permitting the possibility of a desiring gaze that is specifically female, desiring women. Yet, as demonstrated by the reproduction of these images in Die Erotik in der Photographie, such images could still be reincorporated into the dominant and predominantly male discourse of erotic images.


    1. On the interpretation of these photographs as playful, see Kim Sichel, Germaine Krull: Photographer of Modernity (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999), 33–35.return to text

    2. I am indebted to Kim Sichel’s exemplary exhibition catalog for all biographical details and some key concepts such as Krull’s playful approach to lesbian imagery. Ibid., 5–35.return to text

    Page  149

    3. Ibid., 14.return to text

    4. Ibid., 32–34, pls. 3.1–3.4.return to text

    5. Germaine Krull, La vita conduce la danza, trans. G. Chiti (Florence: Giunti Gruppo Editoriale, 1992), 125.return to text

    6. Ibid. I am grateful to Nadja Aksamija for this and the subsequent translations from the Italian. This and subsequent quotes from Krull’s La vita conduce la danza appear in slightly different translations in Sichel, 32–34.return to text

    7. I was unable to consult Krull’s manuscript, which is written in French. However, French and Italian usages for the term galant are similar. Compare Trésor de la langue française (Paris: Centre national de la Recherche Scientifique, 1971–94), s.v. “Galant”; and Grande Dizionario della Lingua Italiana (Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 1961–2002), s.v. “Galante.”return to text

    8. Kurt Richter, Der Kampf gegen Schund- und Schmutzschriften in Preußen auf Grund des Gesetzes zur Bewahrung der Jugend vor Schund- und Schmutzschriften vom 18. Dezember 1926, 2nd rev. ed. (Berlin: R. von Decker’s Verlag, 1931), 5.return to text

    9. Ibid.return to text

    10. Ibid. For more on paragraph 184 see Gary Stark, “Pornography, Society, and the Law in Imperial Germany,” Central European History 14, no. 3 (1981): 213–29.return to text

    11. Stark, 200–229.return to text

    12. [Kurt] Richter, Über Pornographien und ihre Bekämpfung (Berlin: Ministerium des Innerns, 1921), 17, Geheimes Staatsarchiv Dahlem, Berlin. GStA-PK I. HA Rep. 77 Tit. 2772, nr. 1, vol. 1. This and all subsequent German translations are mine.return to text

    13. Von Glasenapp, unpublished report regarding “Besonderen Haushaltungsplan für die Deutsche Zentralpolizeistelle zur Bekämpfung unzüchtiger Bilder, Schriften, und Inserate in Berlin,” July 12, 1921, Geheimes Staatsarchiv, Dahlem, Berlin, GstA PK, I. HA Rep. 77 Tit. 2772, nr. 2, vol. 1, 65.return to text

    14. Richter, Über Pornographien, 18–19.return to text

    15. Compare with similar comments on the format of Les Amies. Sichel, 35.return to text

    16. Sichel, 34.return to text

    17. Philips de Pury and Company, New York, Photographs, April 28, 2005, lot no. 89,[http://www.artnet.com.]Accessed February 4, 2009.return to text

    18. Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia sexualis mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der conträren Sexualempfindung, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart: Verlag von Ferdinand Enke, 1887), 66.return to text

    19. Laura Doan, Fashioning Sapphism: The Origins of a Modern English Lesbian Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 96.return to text

    20. Ibid.return to text

    21. Patrice Petro, Joyless Streets: Women and Melodramatic Representation in Weimar Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 103–27.return to text

    22. I am indebted to Madelyn Shaw for this interpretation.return to text

    23. This essay uses the word lesbian, but in the 1920s phrases such as “ideal female friendship” and “Third Sex” were more popular. See Alice Kuzniar, The Queer German Cinema (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), 22–27.return to text

    24. Götz Adriani, ed., Rudolf Schlichter: Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen (Munich Page  150and Berlin: Klinkhardt and Biermann, 1997), 150–51, no. 71; Peter Nisbet, ed., German Realist Drawings of the 1920s (Cambridge: Harvard University Art Museums, 1986), 233, no. 97.return to text

    25. “Jazz,” Die Freundin, 1, no. 4 (October 1, 1924): 3.return to text

    26. Compare depictions of stocking-clad prostitutes in works by Edgar Degas, discussed in Hollis Clayson, Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), 27–55.return to text

    27. Compare Arthur Schulz, ed., Italienische Acte [sic] (Leipzig: Verlag Carl Scholtze, 1905). See also Susan Waller, “Censors and Photographers in the Third Republic of France,” History of Photography 27, no. 3 (autumn 2003): 222–35.return to text

    28. Illustrated in Sichel, pl. 3.10.return to text

    29. Ibid., 35, pl. 3.7.return to text

    30. Abigail Solomon-Godeau, “Reconsidering Erotic Photography: Notes for a Project of Historical Salvage,” in Photography at the Dock: Essays on Photographic History, Institutions, and Practices (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 235.return to text

    31. See Uwe Scheid, Freundinnen: Bilder der Zärtlichkeit, Der Doppelakt in frühen Photographien (Dortmund: Harenberg, 1987). Sichel also notes that the faces are hidden. Sichel, 35.return to text

    32. See Caroline Evans and Lorraine Gamman, “The Gaze Revisited, or Reviewing Queer Viewing,” in A Queer Romance: Lesbians, Gay Men, and Popular Culture, ed. Paul Burston and Colin Richardson (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 13–56.return to text

    33. Sichel, 35.return to text

    34. The drawing is reproduced in Jill Lloyd and Michael Peppiatt, eds., Christian Schad and the Neue Sachlichkeit (New York and Munich: Neue Galerie and Schirmer/Mosel Verlag, 2003), 194.return to text

    35. Solomon-Godeau, 235.return to text

    36. See Waller, 231. During the First World War, women represented almost one-quarter of German prosecutions for pornography. Stark, “Pornography,” 221.return to text

    37. Krull, 132.return to text

    38. On the timing of the visit to Paris, see Sichel, 69.return to text

    39. Krull, 136.return to text

    40. Ilse Kokula, “Die ‘goldenen Zwanziger’ in Berlin—von unten gesehen,” LesbenStich 4, no. 2 (1983): 24–28, quoted in Nancy P. Nenno, “Bildung and Desire: Anna Elisabet Weirauch’s Der Skorpion,” in Queering the Canon: Defying Sights in German Literature and Culture, ed. Christoph Lorey and John L. Plews (Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1998), 215.return to text

    41. Sichel, 33.return to text

    42. Krull, 132–34.return to text

    43. Karl Arnold, “Berliner Bilder XXI: Schwuhl,” Simplicissimus, July 30, 1923, 224. The additional h in the word Schwuhl imitates the Berlin accent. Compare Keith Spalding, An Historical Dictionary of German Figurative Usage (Oxford: Blackwell, 1952–ca. 2000) s.v. “schwul.”return to text

    Page  151

    44. Karl Arnold, “Aus der Diele” (At the Bar), Simplicissimus, September 3, 1923, 283.return to text

    45. Curt Morek, Führer durch das “lasterhafte” Berlin, facsimile of 1931 ed. (Berlin: Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1996).return to text

    46. Victor Margueritte, La Garçonne: Sittenroman aus dem heutigen Paris, trans. Edmund Edel (Berlin: Ehrlich, 1923). See also Mary Louise Roberts, “‘This Civilization No Longer Has Sexes’: La Garçonne and Cultural Crisis in France after World War I,” Gender and History 4, no. 1 (spring 1992): 55–56.return to text

    47. “Marginalien,” Der Querschnitt, 3 (1923): 88.return to text

    48. The poem appeared in Arkadien 1, no. 1 (1919): 44. See also Clare Rogan, “Desiring Women: Constructing the Lesbian and Female Homoeroticism in German Art and Visual Culture, 1900–1933,” PhD diss., Brown University, 2005, 155–57.return to text

    49. Rogan, “Desiring Women,” 158–61; Sabine Dahmen, Leben und Werk der jüdischen Künstlerin Lene Schneider-Kainer im Berlin der zwanziger Jahre (Dortmund: Edition Ebersbach, 1999), 101–11.return to text

    50. Rogan, “Desiring Women,” 167–69.return to text

    51. See Katharina Vogel, “Zum Selbstverständnis lesbischer Frauen in der Weimarer Republik. Eine Analyse der Zeitschrift, ‘Die Freundin,’” in Eldorado: Homosexuelle Frauen und Männer in Berlin, 1850–1950 (Berlin: Edition Hentrich, 1984), 162–68. For an analysis of the images in Die Freundin, see Clare Rogan, “‘Good Nude Photographs’: Images for Desire in Weimar Germany’s Lesbian Journals,” in Tribades, Tommies, and Transgressives, vol. 1, Histories of Sexualities, ed. Mary McAuliffe and Sonja Tiernan (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008), 145–61.return to text

    52. Sichel, 311, n. 24. Sichel’s information came from Ulrike Boehmer.return to text

    53. .[http://www.artnet.com.]Accessed February 4, 2009.return to text

    54. The Ergänzungsband, or second volume, includes 111 images of single women (clothed or nude) out of 171 photographs, while the Nachtragsband, or third volume, includes 135 images of single women out of 173 pictures. Die Erotik in der Photographie, ed. Erich Wulffen, Erich Stenger, Otto Goldmann, Paul Englisch, Rudolf Brettschneider, Gustav Bingen, and Heinrich Ludwig (Vienna: Verlag für Kulturforschung, 1931–32), Ergänzungsband and Nachtragsband.return to text

    55. Die Erotik in der Photographie, Ergänzungsband, 77.return to text

    56. Die Erotik in der Photographie, Nachtragsband, 121, pl.165.return to text

    57. Die Erotik in der Photographie, Nachtragsband, 45, pl. 54.return to text

    58. Die Erotik in der Photographie, Ergänzungsband, 70.return to text

    59. “Vorbemerkung,” in Die Erotik in der Photographie, Ergänzungsband, 7–8.return to text

    Page  152

    8 Paris—Dessau: Marianne Brandt and the New Woman in Photomontage and Photography, from Garçonne to Bauhaus Constructivist

    She wanted to die, but she also wanted to live in Paris.[1]

    The draw of Paris on women of the world has long been recognized. For them, as for Emma Bovary, the fictitious heroine of Gustav Flaubert’s novel, France’s capital represented infinite possibilities and specific opportunities. From the early nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, female artists and art students from Europe and North America journeyed to the city to enjoy artistic freedoms largely denied them in their home countries, most significantly life-drawing classes with the nude, requisite training for any serious artist.[2] As early as 1803, Paris’s Free Drawing School for Young Ladies, which was modeled on a similar local school for men, became one of the first publicly funded art schools for women, including foreigners.[3] Later in the century one expatriate artist, American-born impressionist Mary Cassatt, wrote of these opportunities, “[A]fter all give me France. Women do not have to fight for recognition here if they do serious work.”[4] In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Paris offered women artists the chance to participate in some of the most lively and avant-garde artistic and popular visual cultures in the world.

    In this essay I focus on one of the many women who went to Paris to absorb its ambiance and opportunities for artistic immersion: the Bauhaus designer, photographer, and photomonteur Marianne Brandt. In many ways a quintessential New Woman, Brandt is best known for her sleek designs for household objects, which have come to epitomize Bauhaus aesthetics.[5] She started training as a painter in 1911 in the German town of Weimar at a private drawing school and in 1912 began studies at Weimar’s Grand Ducal College of Art, a rare exception in Germany in that it Page  153accepted female students. In 1916—17 Brandt studied art in Munich; then she returned to Weimar and received her degree in 1918. During at least four subsequent extended trips to Paris, Brandt's work underwent a series of changes that reflected her radical modernization as both a woman and an artist. Whereas during her initial yearlong stay in 1920—21 she was still an expressionist painter, on later trips her choice of media and her work shifted dramatically through both her exposure to the visual delights of France's metropolis and, starting in 1924, her studies at the Bauhaus.[6] In her life and her work, Brandt audaciously traversed borders, not only into foreign territory but into media and aesthetics that had previously been reserved for men. Translating ideas and experiences of the international New Woman into the latest visual technologies, Brandt’s photomontages and photographs touch on issues of private emotions, public space, and national and personal identity as they were impacted by shifting gender relationships of the time.

    In a highly influential essay on gender, modernism, mass culture, and representation, Andreas Huyssen critiques one of the main theses of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, namely, that mass culture such as Emma Bovary’s consumption of novels and other cheap goods “is somehow associated with woman while real, authentic culture”—such as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary—“remains the prerogative of men.”[7] Through her constructivist figurative work, Brandt broke down this gendered divide. She consumed the mass media of the interwar illustrated press and then used its images to create avant-garde photomontages; she stepped both behind and in front of the camera and harnessed visual technologies to explore her contexts and her own embodiments of modernist femininity. Brandt was a key participant in the rational modernism of the constructivist Bauhaus. But it was in Paris, the traditional city of women’s artistic innovation, that she tasted the cosmopolitan life of France’s New Woman, an experience that profoundly influenced her own figurative work and her life.

    After first exploring the draws that both Paris and the Bauhaus held for women and looking briefly at Brandt’s early work, I will focus on her turn to photomontage while in Paris during her 1926 stay in relation to her changing self-constructions as a woman and Bauhaus designer. As I will show, ideas from Brandt’s Parisian photomontages carried over to her photographic work at the Bauhaus.

    Among the global struggles for suffrage, France’s was among the longest fought, with women receiving the vote only in 1964; this was a situation Page  154very different from that in Germany where women were granted suffrage in 1918. Yet, already in the later nineteenth century, a particular type of French feminism developed that emphasized feminine beauty even as it attempted to win women's political and societal freedom.[8] In this form, as Marie Louise Roberts explains, New Womanhood coalesced under the uniquely French title of éclaireuse, a term that, like avant-garde, originally referred to those in the forefront of a military operation. Given the centrality of notions of beauty and grace to French femininity and in light of the growing presence and reputation of female artists in Paris, it should be no surprise that the world of representation became a primary site of the fight for emancipation. As Tamar Garb has shown, nineteenth-century debates on sexual difference rested on such beliefs as an inherent connection between femininity and the world of appearances, and the idea that women’s strengths lay “in their highly developed powers of observation and perception,” even if some male scientists saw women as lacking the intellectual capacity to comprehend their observations.[9] In the early twentieth century, women’s legal, political, sexual, and economic rights continued to be actively debated in France by such feminists as the medical doctor Madeleine Pelletier, who pushed for changes in women’s education, suffrage, and access to abortion.[10]

    By the period after the First World War, visuality and the New Woman in France and elsewhere were indelibly linked. Racy images of garçonnes—the French term for a boyish New Woman—were deployed in the arguments about how French women would become modern. In interwar photojournalism, visual debates about women’s changing appearances and roles in society were played out and a broader fascination with female mobility was brought to the fore. Glossy and literary magazines of the 1920s often depicted women swimming, riding bicycles, flying airplanes, and driving cars. These perceived connections between New Womanhood and freedom of movement fundamentally changed what it was to be a woman of the time, particularly a woman artist. Various aspects of Paris’s visual culture were a strong pull to the often freethinking female artists who continued to flock there for education, to participate in the city’s avant-garde movements, or to become part of its bohemian and expatriate literary groups.[11] As I now turn specifically to Brandt’s work in Germany and France, I want to pick up on the link between travel and representation in order to examine her photomontages as both media interventions and a form of female flânerie in which vision is connected to gendered experiences of the interwar metropolis.

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    Brandt first moved to Paris in 1920 after she and her husband, the Norwegian painter Erik Brandt, married in 1919 and lived in his homeland. She was drawn to Paris not for her art education, since she had already completed a full course of study, but for the culture and life offered by the city. Because many of her personal papers were destroyed in the Second World War, it is difficult to reconstruct the exact nature of Brandt’s time in Paris, but two letters to her family talk particularly about her love of the city’s beauty and the life it offered, despite its being expensive; her and Erik Brandt’s international (largely Norwegian) context; and the fact that they hired a female model to pose in their combined apartment and atelier.[12] “That is more for Erik, I just work along with him,” she wrote of the model, suggesting that her painting of this period was generally not done from life.[13] Her expressionist paintings of these years show some resemblance to those of her teacher, Fritz Mackensen, and to the work of Oskar Kokashka, which she would have seen in Munich. Still, in important ways Brandt’s paintings were already pushing the boundaries of this traditional medium by embracing a combination of feminine and technological elements. In an untitled self-portrait of circa 1920, Brandt shows her own head in a minimalist, industrialized landscape that is further abstracted by a wash line and sheets blowing in the wind (fig. 8.1). Brandt’s features are severe, and she appears almost to be in mourning as she closes her eyes to her surroundings, a gesture that suggests an ambiguous relationship with vision.

    After her first stay in Paris and additional travels in the south of France, Brandt returned to Weimar to study sculpture. In 1923 she saw the first major exhibition of the Weimar Bauhaus, which would have included radically new designs for household objects, constructivist sculptures, and purely abstract paintings. Shortly thereafter she piled up her own paintings and burned them. Then she joined the Bauhaus and began her studies again.

    One of the most influential art institutions of the interwar period, the Bauhaus offered a completely new approach to art and design, and, by integrating men and women into the school, it shifted gender relationships.[14] Brandt’s Bauhaus metal designs are now some of the most iconic images associated with the school. The year she began her Bauhaus studies, 1924, was also the year she opted to apprentice herself to the Metal Workshop at the encouragement of her mentor, the Hungarian constructivist László Moholy-Nagy. According to her own account, the other members of the workshop—all men—initially assigned her the most repetitive and

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     Fig. 8.1.: Marianne Brandt, Untitled (Self Portrait), ca. 1920, vintage silver gelatin print of painting, oil on canvas, destroyed. (Photograph collection of the Bauhaus-
Archiv, Berlin. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)
    Fig. 8.1.

    Marianne Brandt, Untitled (Self Portrait), ca. 1920, vintage silver gelatin print of painting, oil on canvas, destroyed. (Photograph collection of the Bauhaus- Archiv, Berlin. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)

    mundane tasks in the hopes of scaring her off, presumably to the weaving workshop, into which most of the female students were streamed.[15] Brandt survived the hazing and went on to become arguably the most successful member of the Metal Workshop, securing numerous contracts with industry for production of her metal lamps and eventually taking over as acting director of the workshop when Moholy-Nagy left the Bauhaus.[16] The dramatic change in Brandt’s artistic identity that occurred through her time at the Bauhaus reflects a broader shift in artistic production away from expressionism. At the same time many women artists were no longer restricted to what were considered “feminine” aesthetics, and they participated, for example, in the international constructivist movement, which—in its coldness and rejection of beauty as a criterion—was often seen as more masculine. Likewise Brandt left painting behind to work in metal, a material that was seen strictly as masculine at the Bauhaus.[17]

    In the summer of 1926, Brandt took a sabbatical from the Bauhaus to Page  157return to Paris for a nine-month stay with her husband.[18] She made this return as an artist who had renounced painting in a dramatic manner; this rejection of figurative easel painting would have been reinforced by her two years at the Bauhaus, where Walter Gropius had referred to it derisively as “salon art” in the Bauhaus’s founding manifesto.[19] Yet Brandt’s new craft, metalwork, was not something that she could take with her. Instead, while in Paris for this second, longer stay, she turned to photomontage, a medium with which she had brief experience during her 1924 class with Moholy-Nagy, in which she made two montages of photograms.[20] Photomontage was perfect for Paris since it was portable and markedly different from oil painting, and it also allowed Brandt a renewed chance to explore the human figure. In these new works, Brandt mixes photographic reproductions collected in Germany as early as 1925 with those scavenged in France. These photomontages tap into the interwar pictorial field to intervene in her contemporaries’ representations of metropolitan life, consumer culture, and, above all, the New Woman, the most frequently occurring and potentially self-referential figure in Brandt’s photomontages.

    Remembered as a “bobbed-hair, pencil-thin sexpot who smoked cigarettes, drank cocktails, and danced to the rhythms of jazz bands,” our historical conception of France’s garçonne of the 1920s seems particularly linked to her fashions and vices.[21] In one of Brandt’s most glorious photomontages from her 1926–27 stay, Pariser Impressionen (Parisian Impressions), Brandt put modern cosmopolitan femininity on display and, through this new medium, suggested that New Womanhood was as much about agency as it was about appearance (fig. 8.2). As Brandt seems to celebrate the superficial beauty of Paris’s Modern Girls, she also challenges and parodies this view of them. True to its title, Parisian Impressions presents a jumble of glittering women—and a few men—costumed and dressed to the nines. This photomontage can be interpreted as a tour through Paris by a flâneuse, a leisured, strolling female viewer.[22]

    Parisian Impressions represents the city’s women in multiple ways. First, the city is specifically evoked by the presence of such specific markers as the Eiffel Tower, and feminine spectacle is most obviously represented by the showgirls dominating this work, including the smiling face of one of Paris’s most famous dancers at the lower right, the young American Josephine Baker.[23] The colorful forms of two other showgirls who evoke femininity as performance (blue, on the left) and sexuality (pink, on the right) frame Baker’s head like pendant wings of a triptych. The pink dancer wears more accessories than clothes as she appears simply in underpants,

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     Fig. 8.2.: Marianne Brandt, Pariser Impressionen (Parisian Impressions), 1926, photomontage of newspaper clippings on gray paper. (Collection of the Stiftung Bauhaus
Dessau. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)
    Fig. 8.2.

    Marianne Brandt, Pariser Impressionen (Parisian Impressions), 1926, photomontage of newspaper clippings on gray paper. (Collection of the Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)

    shoes, opera-length gloves, and a hat. She embraces the oversized head of American actor Adolphe Menjou, who adds a further element of French femininity to this montage, for he was the star of the hit film A Woman of Paris (1923, dir. Charles Chaplin). This title phrase would have been evoked by Menjou’s face, thus giving an audio component to this montage of Paris’s women.

    While women are on display, Brandt’s work makes it clear that visual Page  159pleasure is not a simple matter. Baker looks sharply to her right, and her gaze directs our vision to the montage's center, where the realistically colored legs of another dancer are stroked by a portly and refined man whose eyes are half closed in pleasure. Grotesquely, the legs are missing a torso but sprout an ancient Egyptian relief head that is twisted backward; the leg fetishist does not appear to notice that the body he so desires is an awkward amalgam. Here, as elsewhere in this montage, women's legs function as shorthand for the female body as sexualized spectacle. At the same time, legs also allegorize the freedom and mobility enjoyed by the women of Paris. Just above these large, luscious, and disembodied lower limbs, a group of tiny legs appears, each one of them smaller than a matchstick and laboriously cut out. They belong to the mostly female members of a crowd that stands to wait for a double-decker bus at the montage's center. Rather than offering feminine spectacle, these legs appear as supports for ordinary women as they board public transport to take off again through the city.

    Female mobility is also the focus of the lower-right portion of Parisian Impressions, where another woman sits behind the wheel of a luxurious car. She appears to have stopped here after her own carefree journey through the city. A closer look reveals an aggressive yet incomplete removal in this montage element, for the headless remains of two men in tuxedos are visible in the back seat. Thus, in the location of an artist’s signature is an adamantly independent woman amid the sights of Paris. The city is laid out as an open secret in Parisian Impressions and as a locus of feminine spectacle that also invited female pleasure—and humor—through vision.

    In addition to exploring modern women’s freedoms, Brandt also addressed the international nature of New Womanhood in works such as Nos soeurs d'Amerique (Our American Sisters), also of 1926 (fig. 8.3). This work unites images of three very different modern women on a ground of blank paper. The busy patterns of the work’s halftone prints create visual resonances so that the figures in the crowd form a field of dots, which is echoed in the leopard that is being washed by his strong and capable mistress at the right, the skintight checkered dress and matching hat of a model to the left, and the homespun plaid of a pistol-packing woman of the American Wild West.[24]All three of the women’s faces are partially or wholly hidden, which allows them to function as types rather than individuals. The work includes a single male figure at the upper right who appears to swoon as he takes in the overwhelming sight of these imports from across the Atlantic.

    During the first decades of the twentieth century, “American” influence

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     Fig. 8.3.: Marianne Brandt, Nos soeurs d'Amerique (Our American Sisters), 1926, photomontage of newspaper clippings, ink. (Collection of Merrill C. Berman. © Artists
Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)
    Fig. 8.3.

    Marianne Brandt, Nos soeurs d'Amerique (Our American Sisters), 1926, photomontage of newspaper clippings, ink. (Collection of Merrill C. Berman. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)

    Page  161

    was felt increasingly in much of the world through exports of fashions, Hollywood films, and even in the new sciences of work efficiency known as Taylorism or Fordism.[25]In the interwar period, when the migrating nature of New Womanhood was seen as thrilling by some and as a cause for concern by others, this type was linked to admiration for and fear of global Americanization. In 1925 one French commentator wrote that “the innocent young thing (l’oie blanche) of yesterday has given way to la garçonne of today. In this way as well, the war, like a devastating wind, has had an influence. Add to this sports, movies, dancing, cars, the unhealthy need to be always on the move—this entire Americanization of old Europe, and you will have the secret to the complete upheaval of people and things.”[26]The same year that Brandt made Our American Sisters, the German journalist Friedrich Sieburg criticized his contemporaries’ adoption of such standardizing American practices as beauty pageants, which he saw as corrupting youthful innocence with commercialism and greed.[27] Still, many of Brandt’s contemporaries looked on all things American as new, exciting, and progressive.

    The textual framing of Our American Sisters situates these women’s nationality first and foremost by presenting them as American female types: can-do handler of exotic animals, fashion-forward model, and gun-toting female deputy. In referring to these women as “sisters” in French, the text strikes a note of irony to suggest that, although they are biologically the same as French women, in actuality they are radically different in their American approach to life. Brandt highlights their status as types and presents them as a subject for visual investigation, something she spotlights in two specific ways. First, the three larger figures of Our American Sisters appear as if they were projections in a futuristic cinema; they are on display for and positioned among members of a crowd gathered at the center of the montage. Second, at the bottom of Our American Sisters are the words Féminin Illustré, or “Women’s Illustrated,” which makes this photomontage into a design for the cover of a women’s magazine. Several of Brandt’s photomontages from this period appear to have been proposals for commercial design work, but no record exists of whether or not she was successful in these attempts.[28] As either an actual or mock magazine cover proposal, Our American Sisters suggests that it is just a first look at these foreign women who are close enough to be siblings but far enough to merit a thorough visual investigation. For Brandt, herself a foreign transplant to Paris, these larger-than-life images of stylish and foreign female types may have reflected her own sense of belonging to a global sisterhood.

    Another of Brandt’s Paris photomontages, Bull—Donkey—Monkey

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     Fig. 8.4.: Marianne Brandt, Bulle—Esel—Affe (Bull—Donkey—Monkey), 1926, one side of a double-sided photomontage of newspaper clippings and gelatin silver prints; red, yellow, and blue paper; red, green, yellow, and black ink. (Collection of the Bauhaus- Archiv, Berlin. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)
    Fig. 8.4.

    Marianne Brandt, Bulle—Esel—Affe (Bull—Donkey—Monkey), 1926, one side of a double-sided photomontage of newspaper clippings and gelatin silver prints; red, yellow, and blue paper; red, green, yellow, and black ink. (Collection of the Bauhaus- Archiv, Berlin. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)

    (Bulle—Essel—Affe) of 1926, one side of a double-sided composition, relies even more heavily on French text to thematize the New Woman's mobility and the female body as spectacle, even as it probes more deeply into tense and even painful gender relations (fig. 8.4). Unlike the majority of her other photomontages, most of the images in Bull—Donkey—Monkey Page  163are not halftone prints from magazines but original photographs. This work is highly personal, for these photographs reflect ambiguously on a love triangle among Brandt, her husband, and her sister Susanna Liebe, who came to visit during the 1926—27 Paris sojourn.

    In addition to these personal photographs, Bull—Donkey—Monkey is an elaborate collection of newspaper and magazine text, ink drawing, and a few plain squares of colored paper. Different from Brandt’s other montages in style, it is closer to works by Dadaists such as Brandt’s friend Kurt Schwitters or Hannah Höch.[29] Höch occasionally used images of her friends and lovers in her montages—Cut with the Kitchen Knife of 1919–20 is the most famous example—and she, too, focused on the changing roles of women. Brandt’s extensive use of text here is unique, and it gives Bull—Donkey—Monkey the feel of a scrapbook as much as of a montage.

    Bull—Donkey—Monkey is a materialization of tensions between Brandt’s romantic life and her status as a member of the avant-garde. Read clockwise it offers meditations on the New Woman, expresses profound anger and hurt in her marriage, and concludes with suggestions of her own agency as an artist and a woman. In the upper left Brandt appears with a New Woman’s signature bob and shouts “Bull,” “Donkey,” and “Monkey” at her husband, three terms foraged from the press that suggest Erik Brandt’s brutishness, stubbornness, and ridiculousness. In the context of their earlier letters, however, “Monkey” (Affe) seems to have been their mutual nickname; here it is twisted into an insult. Below the animal names, Erik Brandt gads about in a garden, oblivious to her name-calling. “‘Lover!’ She hissed” stretches between them; other bits of text accuse him of infidelity and suggest Brandt’s feelings of imprisonment and search for revenge. Directly above her head is a completely different textual extract, which makes Bull—Donkey—Monkey about much more than an interpersonal drama: “. . . on the feminine future. All women to work. Little by little they begin to adopt masculine dress, neglect themselves, and in the end strangely resemble their bearded companions. Soon they are dirty; hairs sprout from their chins.” At stake is Brandt’s seemingly conflicting status as a wife and artist who, through her work at the Bauhaus, was enjoying much more success than her husband; thus she stands accused of becoming manly herself.

    Bull—Donkey—Monkey still includes suggestions of marital harmony, as at the upper right, where Brandt appears in a more traditionally feminine costume and poses along with the phrase “the most beautiful / experiences.” But these are interrupted by suggestions of their fleeting nature (“two minutes a day”), by more name-calling (“bandit” for her), and the Page  164phrase "the deadly kiss" next to a headless reclining female nude whose body is punctuated by red dots for nipples. The phrase "forgotten sin" in large lettering leads down to a photograph at the lower right that was taken by Marianne Brandt and shows Erik Brandt and Susanna Liebe sitting in the Brandt apartment in Paris.[30] Text beneath this photograph—“the moment is very favorable!” “with great success,” and “the terrifying martyr in his atelier”—positions Erik Brandt as opportunistic, lecherous, and self-pitying. The reference to the atelier may also make light of his status as an old-fashioned painter now that Brandt herself has moved on to the Bauhaus system of workshops. While it is playful at times, these first three quarters of Bull—Donkey—Monkey blast her husband with a bilingual barrage of insults.

    What seems to be Brandt’s salvation in this work is her own agency and transformation. These come to the fore in the lower left quadrant. While there are still a few biting phrases directed at Erik Brandt, this quarter is dominated by a beautiful, dynamic, and muscular female acrobat, a kind of stand-in for the artist herself. She flies through the air, completely free, her movement traced in space by three arching lines. Like a modernist allegorical figure—and a sort of éclaireuse—she holds a light in her hand, not a traditional torch but an adjustable overhead lamp very much like Brandt’s Bauhaus designs of the time.[31] Labeled “my wife’s lover,” this lamp suggests that Brandt’s heart really lay with the Bauhaus. Not only is the acrobat a creative dynamo, but she powerfully experiences her own desires. “A hellish heat” roars out from between her thighs, and her body arcs around the phrases “a terrifying attraction” and “in broad daylight.” The whole of this lower left quarter appears illuminated by the yellow constructivist sun at the right, suggesting a new day after this muddle of dramatic emotions.

    Brandt and her husband divorced in 1935 after years of living apart.[32] In a letter from that year, she suggests that the relationship had long been over, writing that “for me it was already divorce in the moment I understood that he actually wanted her.”[33] The 1926–27 stay in Paris changed much for Brandt. She lived in an international and metropolitan context—likely speaking three different languages on any given day—and mastered the mass media through montage. She also seems to have ceased seeing herself as married and, like the female driver at the lower right of Parisian Impressions, began to cut out one of the most important men in her life.[34] These Parisian photomontages were an outpouring of creativity that focused on a specifically female experience of modernity as an awkward and sometimes painful joining of old and new.

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    When she returned to the Dessau Bauhaus in 1927, Brandt took up the position of Mitarbeiter (chief assistant) of the Metal Workshop; the following year she would become the workshop’s acting director. As she continued to receive recognition for her metal designs, she also worked in parallel on her pictorial representations in photomontage. And she turned more seriously to photography in 1928.[35] In a series of untitled self-portraits, including one from 1928–29 in which her camera is clearly visible, Brandt envisioned herself as a Bauhaus New Woman and a sort of artist constructor (fig. 8.5). Throughout this series of photographs, Brandt always appears reflected in polished metal surfaces, her visage and body combined with the medium of her revolutionary designs. In the particular photograph that I include with this essay, Brandt appears in her Bauhaus atelier; we can see her framed by elements of Walter Gropius’s building. Behind her a snowy landscape suggests an open future, as Brandt appears bright-eyed with her camera, the technological means for creating this new imagery. Approximately eight years after her untitled painted self-portrait (fig. 8.1), in which she shows her face amid feminine laundry and an industrialized landscape, Brandt has moved boldly through a series of abstract and representational strategies, working in metal, photomontage, and photography, to an integrated means of self-presentation as a technologized and avant-garde New Woman.

    Part of what made Madame Bovary so radically modern in mid-nineteenth-century France was Flaubert’s use of appropriation and citation. Through Emma Bovary’s reading of novels, Flaubert created a form of literary montage by evoking “the wealth of fictional forms being practiced as the novel rose to a major cultural genre.”[36]He also created an assemblage of images in words as Emma peruses the pictures in her books and gazes at etchings of women involved in romance, fashion, travel, and sentimental emotion.[37] While Flaubert once famously and controversially declared his own identification with this character—“Madame Bovary, c’est moi”—critics and historians generally agree with Huyssen that she is tragicomically aligned with cheap, transitory, and feminine culture while the authorial Flaubert embodies masculine “authentic culture.”[38] Writing about the prevalence of representations of female readers among late-nineteenth-century painters, Griselda Pollock recently observed that these were “paradoxically one of the paradigmatic images of a negative, feminine relation to modernity. From Fragonard to Van Gogh, women appear as readers of novels in paintings of modern life. The advanced novels of the time, like Flaubert’s

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     Fig. 8.5.: Marianne Brandt, Untitled (Self Portrait with Camera), 1928/29. Silver gelatin photograph; modern print (no vintage prints extant). (Collection of the Bauhaus-
Archiv, Berlin. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst,
    Fig. 8.5.

    Marianne Brandt, Untitled (Self Portrait with Camera), 1928/29. Silver gelatin photograph; modern print (no vintage prints extant). (Collection of the Bauhaus- Archiv, Berlin. © Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.)

    Page  167

    Madame Bovary (1857), exposed the woman reader as silly and susceptible to sentimental fiction in an implied contrast to the disciplined rationalism of the modernist male author.”[39]

    Almost seventy years after the publication of Madame Bovary, Marianne Brandt, a woman who, like Emma, was almost magically drawn to Paris, made her own practice of multilingual reading and viewing into the basis of an art form, one that foregrounded the tension between modern women’s perceived superficiality and depth.[40] In creating these images, crossing national and linguistic borders, and working in multiple media, Brandt provided a retort to Flaubert as she reinvented herself as a media-savvy and ultimately ardently independent Bauhaus New Woman.


    1. Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857), Norton critical edition, ed. Margaret Cohen (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005), 52.return to text

    2. Diane Radycki, “The Life of Lady Art Students: Changing Art Education at the Turn of the Century,” Art Journal 42, no. 1 (spring 1982): 9.return to text

    3. Tamar Garb, “‘Men of Genius, Women of Taste’: The Gendering of Art Education in Late Nineteenth-Century Paris,” in Overcoming All Obstacles: The Women of the Academie Julian, ed. Jane Becker and Gabriel Weisberg (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1999), 121.return to text

    4. Mary Cassatt, letter to Sara Tyson Hallowell, 1893, quoted in Griselda Pollock, Mary Cassatt: Painter of Modern Women (London: Thames and Hudson, 1998), 56. Women artists in France were still often seen as lesser than their male counterparts; see Tamar Garb, Sisters of the Brush: Women’s Artistic Culture in Late Nineteenth-Century Paris (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994), 153.return to text

    5. Images of Brandt’s metal designs have been reproduced extensively, as have the objects themselves. See Barry Bergdoll and Leah Dickerman, eds., Bauhaus: Workshops for Modernity, exhibition catalog (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2009), 109, 143, 145, 232–33, 284–85.return to text

    6. Marianne Brandt, “Lebenslauf um Antrag auf Wiedererlangung der Deutschen Staatsangehörigkeit,” n.d., collection of Bernd Freese, Frankfurt am Main. For more on Marianne Brandt’s various trips to Paris, see Anne-Kathrin Weise “Pariser Impressionen, Marianne Brandt und Frankreich,” in Das Bauhaus und Frankreich, ed. Isabelle Ewig, Thomas W. Gaehtgens, and Matthias Noell (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2002), 231–41.return to text

    7. Andreas Huyssen, “Mass Culture as Woman: Modernism’s Other,” in After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 47.return to text

    8. Mary Louise Roberts, “Making the Modern Girl French: From New Woman to Éclaireuse,” in The Modern Girl Around the World: Consumption, Modernity, and Globalization, ed. The Modern Girl Around the World Research Group (AlysPage  168Eve Weinbaum, Lynn M. Thomas, Priti Ramamurthy, Uta G. Poiger, Madeleine Yue Dong, and Tani E. Barlow) (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 77—95.return to text

    9. Tamar Garb, “Berthe Morisot and the Feminizing of Impressionism,” in Perspectives on Morisot, ed. T. J. Edelstein (New York: Hudson Hills, 1990), 63.return to text

    10. See Madeleine Pelletier, “A Feminist Education for Girls” (Paris, 1914), in Feminisms of the Belle Epoque: A Historical and Literary Anthology, ed. Jennifer Waelti-Walters and Steven C. Hause (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1994), 101–16; and Madeleine Pelletier, L’Émancipation Sexuelle de la Femme (Paris: M. Giard and E. Brière, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1911).return to text

    11. Gill Perry, Women Artists and the Parisian Avant-Garde: Modernism and “Feminine” Art, 1900 to the Late 1920s (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995).return to text

    12. Marianne Brandt, letter to sister Johanne Liebe, October 17, 1920, and Marianne Brandt, letter to parents and sister Johanne, n.d. (likely end of December 1920 or January 1921), both in the collection of the Bauhaus-Archive, Museum for Design, Berlin.return to text

    13. Brandt, letter to parents and sister.return to text

    14. Anja Baumhoff, “What’s the Difference? Sexual Politics of the Bauhaus,” chapter 3 of Gender at the Bauhaus: The Politics of Power at the Weimar Republic’s Premier Art Institute, 1919–1932 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2001), 53–75; Elizabeth Otto, “On the ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Strong’ Sexes at the Bauhaus: Marianne Brandt, Gender, and Photomontage,” in Bauhaus: A Conceptual Model, ed. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, and Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2009), 291–94.return to text

    15. Marianne Brandt, “Letter to the Younger Generation,” in Bauhaus and Bauhaus People, ed. Eckhard Neuman, trans. Eva Richter and Alba Lorman (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, [1970] 1992), 106.return to text

    16. It was Moholy-Nagy who first used hyperbole in relation to Brandt’s designs, referring to her as “my best and most ingenious student (90% of all Bauhaus Designs are by her).” Moholy-Nagy, letter to Ernst Bruckmann, June 26, 1929, collection of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation.return to text

    17. Anja Baumhoff, “Masculine Material in Women’s Hands: The Metal Workshop,” chapter 7 of Gender at the Bauhaus, 131–46. Eleven women started in the Metal Workshop, but other than Brandt none of them completed their degrees there (143).return to text

    18. Marianne Brandt, Bauhaus-Diploma, September 10, 1929, collection of the Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin. In addition to her 1920–21 trip, Brandt had also gone to Paris two more times (in 1924 and 1925) for shorter stays with her husband (Brandt, “Lebenslauf”).return to text

    19. Walter Gropius, “Program of the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar” (April 1919), in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, ed. Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 435.return to text

    20. Elizabeth Otto, Tempo, Tempo! The Bauhaus Photomontages of Marianne Brandt (Berlin: Jovis, 2005), 14–17.return to text

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    21. Roberts, 77.return to text

    22. For more on female flânerie, see Anne Friedberg, Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).return to text

    23. Petrine Archer-Straw, Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s (London: Thames and Hudson, 2000), 94–97.return to text

    24. The gun on the right has been lost since Our American Sisters was reproduced in the 1970s. See Hans and Gisela Schulz, Bauhaus 2 (Leipzig: Galerie am Sachsenplatz, 1977), 20.return to text

    25. Frederick Taylor’s The Principles of Scientific Management had already been published in 1911. For a discussion of both positive and negative perceptions of American influence in the 1920s, see the “American Modernity” section of Anton Kaes, “Metropolis (1927): City, Cinema, Modernity,” in Weimar Cinema: An Essential Guide to Classic Films of the Era, ed. Noah Isenberg (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), 182–85.return to text

    26. “Une Controverse: L’emancipation de la jeune fille moderne est-elle un progress reel?” Le Progrès civique, June 13, 1925, 840, quoted in Roberts, 77.return to text

    27. Friedrich Sieburg, “Anbetung von Fahrstühlen” (Worshiping Elevators), Die literarische Welt 2, no. 30 (July 23, 1926): 8, trans. Don Reneau and reprinted in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, ed. Kaes, Jay, and Dimendberg, 402–3.return to text

    28. See, for example, two works from 1927: Cirque d’hiver (Winter Circus), reproduced in Otto, Tempo, Tempo! 66–66; and Tempo-Tempo, Progress, Culture, reproduced in Elizabeth Otto, “A ‘Schooling of the Senses’: Post-Dada Visual Experiments in the Bauhaus Photomontages of László Moholy-Nagy and Marianne Brandt,” New German Critique 36, no. 2 107 (summer 2009): 101–4.return to text

    29. It is unclear if Brandt and Höch ever met, but they did have friends in common (e.g., Schwitters and Moholy-Nagy). Brandt would have known Höch’s photomontage work through Moholy-Nagy, who owned one and reproduced it in his Painting Photography Film, trans. Janet Seligman (London: Lund Humphries, [1925, 1927] 1969), 94.return to text

    30. While scholars had assumed this to be a photo of Marianne Brandt, Manja Weinert identified it as Susanna Liebe. See Manja Weinert, “Marianne Brandt: Fotomontagen und Foto-Text-Collagen,” MA thesis, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, 2003, 30–39 (available through Grin Verlag).return to text

    31. See, for example, ME 105a (1926), designed with Hans Przyrembel, in Bergdoll and Dickerman, 233.return to text

    32. In 1933 Brandt traveled to Norway to search for work after the National Socialist takeover in Germany but was called home by her family. She may have seen Erik Brandt at that time.return to text

    33. Marianne Brandt, letter to Marthe and Bernhard Berensen, April 5, 1935, collection of the Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin.return to text

    34. Brandt’s mentor, Moholy-Nagy, was another significant man in her life. For more on that relationship, see Otto, “A Schooling of the Senses.”return to text

    35. Elisabeth Wynhoff, ed., Marianne Brandt: Fotografieren am Bauhaus (Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2003), 102.return to text

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    36. Margaret Cohen, “Introduction to the Second Edition,” in Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1857), Norton critical edition, ed. Margaret Cohen (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005), ix.return to text

    37. See, for example, Flaubert, 33–34.return to text

    38. Huyssen, 45–47.return to text

    39. Pollock, 134.return to text

    40. In 1935, poor and out of work under the Nazi regime, Brandt would write to old friends in Paris that she longed for “the most beautiful city.” Brandt, letter to Marthe and Bernhard Berensen.return to text