Infamously called the “anti-art” art movement, Dadaism developed out of disgust and resentment from the bloodshed and horror of World War I, which began in 1914 and ended in 1918. Dadaism’s main purpose was to challenge the social norms of society, and purposefully make art that would shock, confuse, or outrage people. It thrived on counterattacking everything that was conventional in society. The Dadaists considered themselves the rebels of the art world and inspired later major movements, such as Surrealism and even Punk Rock. Although Dadaism originally started as a protest of the first World War, it soon grew into a cultural phenomenon, permeating attitudes thought to be taboo, offensive or childish.

Scholars continue to debate the exact origins of Dadaism and the birth of its name. However, most can say that it likely started in Zurich, Switzerland at a satirical night club called the Cabaret Voltaire. Hugo Ball, founder of the night club, was thought to coin the name, “Dada.” While there is no consensus on how the name came about, some believe the word, Dada, evokes a childish and silly nature. Thus, it would be only natural that the movement should be based around the word. Even though the Dadaism movement lasted less than a decade, the effects of the movement can be seen throughout history and even today. Countless artists were inspired by the wild antics and bold anti-authoritarian nature of Dada. Clearly, the movement motivated artists to expand the boundaries of the art world.

One of the most well-known artists of the Dadaism was Marcel Duchamp, and his most famous work was Fountain, a porcelain urinal signed, “R.Mutt.” This piece sparked a huge controversy in which scholars and critics argued what was considered “art” and what did not. Fountain became a symbol of the 20th century and changed the art world forever. Other Dada artists include: Jean Arp, Hugo Ball, Kurt Schwitters, André Breton, Paul Éluard, Francis Picabia, Max Ernst, Emmy Hennings, Hannah Höch, Man Ray, Sophie Taeuber and Tristan Tzara. After the fall of Dadism, the Surrealist movement emerged. Surrealism was inspired by the Dada movement, and was similar in some ways, but it was more focused on the interpretation of dreams and the unconscious mind. Several former Dada artists, for example, Max Ernst, became Surrealists later in their artistic careers, and turned their attention away from the Dada era “shock value” mantra of dismantling and undermining the status quo.

Sources about Dadaism in The Dalí Museum Library:

Ades, Dawn. Dada and Surrealism. Thames and Hudson, 1974.

This compact book provides a historical perspective on both Dadaism and Surrealism with a chronological sequence of both movements. Ades explores the contributions of the various leading artists of both movements, including Marcel Duchamp, Jean Arp, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, and Salvador Dali, among several others.  The volume features 64 pages in color of illustrations as well as many black and white reproductions and photographs.

  • Call Number: NX600 .D3 A33 1974


Huelsenbeck, Richard. Memoirs of a Dada Drummer. University of California Press, 1991.

This vivid and insightful memoir brings to life a mixture of the artistic, intellectual and political issues of the key figures involved in the Dada movement. Equally important, Huelsenbeck documents the myriad of controversies throughout the Dada period. The book is illustrated with woodcuts and drawings by George Grosz and Hans Arp, and includes a sixteen-page section of rare photographs.

  • Call Number: NX600 .D3 H79 1991


Ball, Hugo. Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary. Viking Press, 1974.

Hugo Ball, generally considered the catalyst of uniting the various elements that comprised the Dada movement, wrote these extraordinary diaries, which were published after his death in 1927. The book includes many important Dada documents, including the original Dada Manifesto, and an introduction by John Elderfield, British art critic and historian, plus extensive biographical material. Also, twelve pages of rare photographs offer a glimpse of Ball’s life.

  • Call Number: NX600 .D3 B3413 1974


Durozoi, Gerard. History of the Surrealist Movement. The University of Chicago Press, 2002.

This comprehensive volume is an encyclopedia-like overview of the history of Surrealism, tracing the movement from its origins in the 1920s to its decline in the 1950s and 1960s. Drawing on an extensive amount of documentary and visual evidence, including 1000 photographs, Durozoi integrates all of the intellectual and artistic elements of the movement, from literature and philosophy to painting, photography and film. This text represents the definitive and indispensable source for all things related to Surrealism.

  • Call Number: NX456.5 .S8 D8713 2002


DADA. Centre Pompidou, 2005.

The exhibition catalog for the Centre Pompidou’s DADA exhibit from October 5, 2005 to   January 9, 2006. Many authors contributed to this catalog and the text is in French.

  • Call Number: NX465.5 .D3 D327 2005


Foster, Steven and Kuenzli, Rudolph. Dada Spectrum: The Dialectics of Revolt. Coda Press, 1979.

This volume is a collection of previously unpublished essays regarding the variety of aspects and features of Dadaism within the spectrum of avant garde movements of the twentieth century. Through particular attention to the seminal figures in the Dada movement, the contributors analyze the revolution in design, literature, and the visual arts. The text is enhanced with more than one hundred reproductions of Dada art and an extensive bibliography.

  • Call Number: NX600 .D3 D33 1979


Rasula, Jed. Destruction Was My Beatrice – Dada and the Unmaking of the Twentieth Century. Basic Books, 2015.

Think of this book as the first narrative history of Dada as it reveals in an entertaining style the many ways this artistic phenomenon laid the foundation for our future culture. Rasula traces the spread of Dada from Europe to New York to Berlin to Paris, all the while inspiring Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, George Grocz, and early Surrealists like Andre Breton, Louis Aragon, and Paul Eluard. The author makes the case for Dadaism’s influence on the broad spectrum of art, ranging from Marshall McCluhan to the Beatles to Monthy Python.

  • Call Number: NX456.5 .D3 R37 2015


Bethanis, Elsa and Peter. Dada & Surrealism For Beginners. For Beginners, 2006.

This comic book style format lends itself to a very creative introduction to the key artists, trends, and elements of both Dada and Surrealism. All the main personalities of these movements are weaved into the narrative, from Dada’s Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, and Marcel Duchamp to Surrealism’s Andre Breton, Salvador Dali and Rene    Magritte. The volume is illustrated with black and white renderings by Joe Lee, capturing the essence of both movements in a bold and dynamic presentation.

  • Call Number: NX600 .D3 B48 2006


Huelsenbeck, Richard. The Dada Almanac. Atlas Press, 1993.

This anthology provides the most comprehensive account of the Dada movement through a collection of literary documents by the various Dada personalities, such as,  Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp, and Walter Mehring. The volume includes several lengthy articles and manifestos regarding art and literary theory, providing significant insight into the many facets of Dada. The editors have added a variety of relevant texts and portraits as well as contemporary references and biographies of the important Dadaists.

  • Call Number: NX600 .D3 D27613 1999


Dickerman, Leah and Witkovsky, Matthew S. The Dada Seminars. National Gallery of Art, 2005.

This volume represents the exchange of papers and discussion at the Center for    Advanced Study in the Visual Arts in three seminars between November 2001 and May 2003. The twelve essays are part of a collaborative effort to address issues in scholarship about Dada. This collection offers a significant revision of understanding the movement.

  •  Call Number: NX456.5 .D3 D34 2005


Motherwell. Robert. The Dada Painters and Poets. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1989.

This volume is an incomparable collection of essays, manifestos, and illustrations by the leading figures of Dada, including Marcel Duchamps, Jean Arp, and Max Ernst among others. It contains every major text on the movement, from restrospective studies to personal memoirs. The illustrations range from photographs of participants, in characteristic Dadaist attitudes, to facsimiles of their productions.

  •  Call Number: NX456.5 .D3 D33 1989


Dickerman, Leah. Dada. National Gallery of Art, 2005.

This lavish, encyclopedic compendium of Dada reaches every historical element of the movement from 1916 to 1924 in its primary centers: Zurich, Berlin, Hannover,
Cologne, New York, and Paris. This provocative era is traced in six scholarly essays with an illustrated chronology and more than forty artists’ biographies. The book is meant to accompany Dada, which is considered the most comprehensive museum exhibition of Dada art ever mounted in the United States, in view in 2006 at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

  • Call Number: NX456.5 .D3 D53 2005


Watts, Harriet Ann. Chance: A Perspective on Dada. UMI Research Press, 1979.

Watts explores the Dada artist commitment of freeing oneself from the rule of reason by welcoming “chance” into the actual creative act. Chance represented the new factor in Dada productions by destroying old aesthetic habits and creating new patterns of perception. Watts focuses on the contributions of Dada icons: Marcel Duchamp, Hans Arp,Tristan Tzara, and Max Ernst.

  • Call Number: NX456.5 .D3 W37 1979


Written by Ira Piller

About The Dalí Museum
The Dalí Museum, located in the heart of picturesque downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, is home to an unparalleled collection of over 2,400 Salvador Dalí works, including nearly 300 oil paintings, watercolors and drawings, as well as more than 2,100 prints, photographs, posters, textiles, sculptures and objets d’art. The Museum’s nonprofit mission, to care for and share its collection locally and internationally, is grounded by a commitment to education and sustained by a culture of philanthropy.

The Dalí is recognized internationally by the Michelin Guide with a three-star rating; has been deemed “one of the top buildings to see in your lifetime” by AOL Travel News; and named one of the ten most interesting museums in the world by Architectural Digest. The building itself is a work of art, including a geodesic glass bubble, nicknamed The Enigma, featuring 1,062 triangular glass panels, a fitting tribute to Salvador Dalí’s legacy of innovation and transformation. Explore The Dalí anytime with the free Dalí Museum App, available on Google Play and in the App Store. The Dalí Museum is located at One Dalí Boulevard, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.