Incompatibly radical

Dada and scandals

In early May 1921 the painter Otto Dix sent an angry letter to his Dada colleague Raoul Hausmann: “Dear Raul, tell the Novembergruppe they are pitiful philistines and I pay these people my deepest contempt. (...) I suggest (...) they should call themselves the Preliberal Group”.

Dix’s displeasure had been incurred by the censorship of his painting “Salon I”, due to be shown by the Novembergruppe at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition in 1921. The association had removed two works from its section: this broad-minded scene from the red-light milieu and another brothel motif by Rudolf Schlichter. The exhibition’s managers had threatened not to open the Novembergruppe’s show at all unless this was done. Dix came up with a replacement: a depiction of the bare-bosomed “Suleika”, a travelling fairground artiste covered from head to toe in tattoos. Evidently this work, no less provocative, was seen as exotic rather than indecent, and it was hung together with the biting social satire “Industrial Farmers” by Georg Scholz. Even so, some members of the Novembergruppe were outraged by this act of self-censorship and “unrevolutionary attitude”, most notably the Dadaists around Raoul Hausmann, who declared that they were leaving the association.

Read more stories about the Novembergruppe here.

 

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