Duft (1937), by Hannah Höch

An oil painting featuring a nude female figure standing before a dark empty space. Her eyes are closed; in her arms and all around her are vibrantly coloured flowers.
Hannah Höch (1889-1978), Duft, 1937. © Estate of Hannah Höch, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / IVARO, Dublin, 2023Credit

A new acquisition by artist Hannah Höch expresses her melancholy during the 1930s.

Hannah Höch (1889-1978) was a German photomontage artist and painter. She was the only woman member of the Berlin Dada group and exhibited at the First International Dada Fair in 1920. By the time she painted Duft (Fragrance) in 1937, she was facing grave personal and professional challenges. The Nazis had classified her as a "Degenerate" artist and banned her from exhibiting. With most of her friends having left Berlin, she found herself alone in the city, and later described this period saying, "the radical loneliness had set in [...]. Everyone distrusted everyone else. So one did not talk to anybody any more. One forgot how to speak".

Höch modelled the figure of the woman on her own appearance. She inhales the scent of flowers with closed eyes. While the scene is vibrantly coloured, the woman stands before a dark and empty space. The implication, perhaps, is that the scent of the flowers has evoked memories and transported the woman to a joyful time or place. Höch often featured botanical forms in her work. To her plants represented fragility, endurance, renewal and, particularly in the 1930s, escapism.

See this work on display

Duft by Hannah Höch is on display now in our modern rooms in the Millennium Wing.


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