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 Johannes Theodor Baargeld  (1892 - 1927)

About: Johannes Theodor Baargeld
 

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Lived/Active: Germany/France      Known for: Dada style collage, drawing

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BIOGRAPHY for Johannes Baargeld
Facts/Data
Birth
1892 (Stettin, Germany)
 
Death
1927 (Chamonix, France)

Lived/Active
Germany/France

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Dada style collage, drawing

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Biography from National Gallery of Art, Washington DC:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Johannes Baargeld
Born 1892 Stettin, Germany (now Szczecin, Poland)
Died 1927 near Chamonix, France

Johannes Theodor Baargeld was the pseudonym adopted by Alfred Emanuel Ferdinand Gruenwald as an ironic, leftist response to the predominantly Catholic and capitalist culture of his hometown, Cologne. (Bargeld is the German word for cash.) Born on October 9, 1892, in Stettin, Germany, Baargeld was the eldest son of the prominent Romanian-Jewish insurance director Heinrich Leopold Gruenwald. The future dadaist grew up in Cologne in a wealthy home, exposed to contemporary art and culture, beginning with his parents' collection of modern paintings. After finishing gymnasium in Cologne, Baargeld studied law and economics at Oxford from 1912 to 1913 and continued at the university in Bonn.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, Baargeld enlisted and served as a reserve lieutenant in the Rhineland Cuirassier Regiment of Count Gessler from 1914 to 1917 and became a lieutenant with the German army's airborne division in February 1917. In the same year, he started to write lyrical and political texts for Franz Pfemfert's pacifist journal Die Aktion (Action). In 1918 Baargeld joined the Independent Socialist Party of Germany (USPD), which was the radical-left wing of the Socialist Party, thus breaking tradition with his conservative bourgeois upbringing. Baargeld was actively involved with the Rhineland Marxists during the immediate postwar period.

Baargeld (also called Zentrodada) co-founded Dada in Cologne along with Max Ernst in the late summer of 1919. In what might be called his pre-dadaist activities, Baargeld financed the publication of a Marxist-oriented periodical, Der Ventilator (The Fan), engendered by the postwar British occupation of the Rhineland. Guilefully camouflaged as an entertainment supplement to the daily press, Der Ventilator eluded British censors and was delivered to factory gates—often as many as twenty thousand copies. The journal served as a satirical political and artistic forum for members of what would become Cologne Dada, including Max Ernst and Angelika and Heinrich Hoerle.

Der Ventilator's overtly political response to a theater scandal caught the attention of the British, however, and its publication was immediately banned, thus terminating Baargeld's subversive efforts after six issues. After Der Ventilator, Baargeld focused his energies on the Dada publications Bulletin D and die schammade, an ambitious compilation of Dada activities in Cologne, Paris, and Zurich co-edited with Ernst. He also organized and participated in the Cologne Dada exhibit in the Winter Brewery in April of 1920. Though Baargeld's initial contributions to Cologne Dada were in the form of political texts and poetry, he developed his visual skills as an autodidact, preferring nontraditional media of collage, photomontage, assemblage, and typography. His dadaist works typically combined provocatively enigmatic text with illustrations or found images.

Baargeld continued his university studies in philosophy and economic theory in Cologne, where he completed his doctorate in July 1923 on the development of privatized life insurance during the war.

Baargeld died on or August 17 or 18, 1927, at the age of thirty-four. It is presumed that Baargeld, an enthusiastic mountain climber, got lost in the fog and froze to death while scaling the Dôme du goûter en route to Mont Blanc.


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