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 Johannes Baader  (1876 - 1955)

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Lived/Active: Germany      Known for: Dada style painting, tomb sculpture, utopian architecture

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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 Baader
Born 1875 Stuttgart, Germany
Died 1955 Adldorf, Germany

Johannes Baader was born in Stuttgart, Germany, on June 21,1875. Between 1892 and 1894, he was apprenticed in stonemasonry while he studied architecture at Stuttgart's Royal School of Building and Construction. In 1903 he became an architect in the Union of Artists for Monumental Tomb Sculpture in Dresden.

Baader moved to Berlin in 1905, where he befriended Raoul Hausmann. He produced designs for a zoo for Carl Hagenbeck in 1911–1912, but the plans were never realized. Because Baader likely suffered from manic depression, he was declared unfit for military service and was therefore not drafted into World War I. Instead, he dedicated his energies to what he called "spiritual architecture," utopian designs of monumental, metaphysical, and messianic dimensions, and contributed to the journals Das Blaubuch (Blue Book), Die freie Strasse (Open Road), and Der Dada in 1917. Baader's philosophical underpinnings were eclectic. Like many of his generation, he found inspiration in Friedrich Nietzsche's vitalist philosophy and the idea of the Übermensch, or superman, who transcends bourgeois morality to live purely by individual values and the will to power. He also drew his intellectual and spiritual sustenance from both eastern and western mysticism.

As self-proclaimed Oberdada, or head Dada—a choice of nickname that typified Baader's grandiose, often megalomaniacal authority—Baader's Dada tactics were largely in the form of spectacular manifestos and public performances, often in collaboration with Raoul Hausmann.

In the autumn of 1917, for instance, Baader and Hausmann founded a Christus-GmbH, or "Christ Company," to protect war deserters, thus associating conscientious objection with Christian martyrdom. Similarly, on November 17, 1918, Baader staged a performance in the Berlin Cathedral called Christus ist euch Wurst (You don't give a damn about Christ), which at once mocked clergy and parishioners as well as political pieties. This assault provoked a public scandal, and Baader was arrested for blasphemy.

Hausmann, in turn, wrote a letter to Berlin's minister of culture arguing for Baader's right to free speech. In March of 1919 Baader and Hausmann announced the Dadaist Republic Nikolassee to start on April 1, 1919, under the auspices of the Central Committee of the Dada Movement. On March 12, 1919, Baader and Hausmann staged a "Propaganda Evening" in Café Austria, where they founded the Antinationaler Rat der unbezahlten Arbeiter or aruda (Anti-National Committee for Unpaid Workers) and Club der blauen Milchstrasse (Club of the Blue Milky Way). Baader announced the death and the resurrection of Oberdada on April 1, 1919, and as such, participated in the Erste Berliner Dada-Ausstellung (First Berlin Dada Exhibition) in the Graphic Cabinet of I. B. Neumann.

Baader was a vocal participant in the discourses of postwar Weimar Germany in a markedly dadaist fashion, putting out his Buch des Weltfriedens (Book of World Peace), a reaction to the Treaty of Versailles, on June 28, 1919, which became known as Handbuch des Oberdada, the Oberdada Handbook. Similarly, on July 16, 1919, Baader threw flyers into the meeting of the Weimar National Assembly printed with the slogan "Dadaists Against Weimar" and three days later proclaimed the socialist politician Philip Scheidemann as Ehrendada (Honorary Dada) in a streetcar. On November 11, 1919, exactly a year after the Kaiser abdicated, Baader printed a calling card that announced him to be the President of the Earth and Universe. In that position Baader applied to teach at the Bauhaus with Walter Gropius in 1920 but his application was rejected.

Johannes Baader died on January 14, 1955, in Adldorf, Bavaria.


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