Dates: 1915-1922

Origin: Europe, United States

Key Artists: Kurt Schwitters, Hans Arp

An anarchic movement which flourished c.1915–c.1922 and ridiculed traditional notions of form and beauty. Originally European, though it also took root in America, it was partly born out of the disillusionment engendered by the First World War. The name was apparently chosen at random by inserting a penknife in the pages of a dictionary (‘dada’ is French for ‘hobby-horse’). It was first used in 1916—by the poet Tristan Tzara according to the artist Jean Arp. Both were members of Dada’s founding group of artists and writers in Zurich. Traditional media such as painting and sculpture were abandoned in favour of techniques and devices such as collage, photomontage, and ready-mades. Chance was credited with a valid role in the act of creation. By the end of the war Dada had spread to a number of German cities such as Berlin, Cologne, and Hanover, but it also took root almost simultaneously in New York, independently of Europe. Its main practitioners were figures such as Duchamp, Picabia, and Man Ray. Other centres of Dada came to include Paris and Prague. Although it was short-lived, Dada was highly influential and inspired many later anti-art movements in the course of the 20th century.

“Dada.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;

Kurt Schwitters

Comments are closed.