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Raoul Hausmann was born in Weil on June 12, 1886, the son of the academic painter Viktor Hausmann. In 1900 he moved to Berlin, where he devoted himself to the study of painting and helped his father paint the murals for the Hamburg City Hall. In the years prior to World War I, his work was influenced by those artists who were exhibiting at the Der Sturm gallery, especially the Expressionists and later the Cubists. He also started collaborating with the journal Der Sturm and wrote the first of many theoretical and satirical essays, which were later published by the magazines Die freie Strasse and Die Aktion.
In 1918, together with Richard Huelsenbeck, George Grosz, John Heartfield, Wieland Herzfelde, Hannah Höch, and Hans Richter, he founded the Dada Club, the Berlin core of the Dada movement. Dadaists were politically and socially active in the dramatic postwar climate, adopting a polemic and particularly aggressive antiwar stance. In the same year along with his companions, Hausmann organized various Dada evenings, published the group’s first manifesto, invented optophonetic poems, and applied the photomontage technique, of which he is considered one of the inventors. In 1919 he founded the journal Der Dada and the following year, with Grosz and Heartfield, he organized the International Dada Fair at the Galerie Nierendorf, Berlin. In the meantime he had come into contact with the Constructivists and went on to investigate new forms of self expression. Eventually in the mid 1920s he decided to abandon painting temporarily to devote himself entirely to photography. Afterwards he published many theory-based articles on this technique.
The year 1933 marked the arrival of Nazism, and Hausmann left Germany for Ibiza, where he took many photos that were later published in the Swiss journal Camera and in Man Ray’s album Nus. Having left Ibiza in 1936, he moved first to Zurich, then to Prague, and lastly, in 1938, to France, settling in Limouges. In the 1940s, together with Kurt Schwitters, he founded a poetry journal called Pin and published many articles on modern poetry. He eventually resumed his painting, and in 1967 the Modern Museum of Stockholm held the first comprehensive retrospective of his work. Hausmann died in Limouges on February 1, 1971.