The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

Dada and Surrealism

What is Dada?

Dada was an anti-rational, anti-establishment movement that began in Europe. Dada was concerned with upending tradition and embracing chance, anarchism, and new forms of art-making. The word “dada” itself is essentially meaningless and was supposedly chosen from the dictionary at random by a group of artists and writers in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1916. The sound “dada” is childish, and reminiscent of a baby’s first words. Dada was a reaction against the horrors of World War I, though earlier movements such as Cubism, and the writing of Kandinsky, certainly inspired it as well. Dada’s influence spread and notable Dada groups were established in Germany, Paris, Barcelona, and New York. Artists associated with Dada include André Breton (1896–1966), Jean (Hans) Arp (1886–1966), Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), and Man Ray (1890–1976).


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