- The year before the onset of World War I, Richter joined the mainstream of the avant-garde movement in Berlin round Herwarth Walden, publisher of the expressionistic art magazine Der Sturm. Richter became acquainted with members of the groups Die Brücke based in Dresden and the Blaue Reiter in Munich. He met the Italian poet and leader of the futurists, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.
- Richter was deeply affected by the 'Erster deutscher Herbstsalon' exhibition of 360 modernist paintings [preface to the catalogue]. He began to push further and further toward abstraction. The possibilities of counterpoint that Richter introduced at this time are explored in all of his future works.
- Richter joined the circle of expressionist artists gathered around Franz Pfemfert, publisher of the Berlin journal Die Aktion. Wochenschrift für Politik, Literatur, Kunst. The group's socialist leanings and its antiwar course were compatible with Richter's 'anarchistic tendencies'.
- War was declared on 4 August, and on 15 September Richter was inducted into the army. The poets Ferdinand Hardekopf and Albert Ehrenstein gave Richter a farewell party. They promised to meet in Zürich, in two years, at the Café de la Terrasse at three in the afternoon, provided, of course, that all three friends were still alive. A few months later, serving in the light artillery, Richter was seriously wounded at Vilna, Lithuania. Partially paralyzed, he was sent to a hospital in Tilsit and from there transferred to Hoppegarten military hospital near Berlin. His brother Fritz was killed at the front, his brother Richard severely wounded.
- On 13 February, two drawings by Richter appeared in Die Aktion ('Der Reiter' and 'Der Denker'). Hereafter thirty-two graphics by Richter were published.
- In March, Richter was discharged from active duty and was placed in the reserves. On 25 March, Pfemfert honored him with a special issue of Die Aktion, the 'Hans Richter Heft'. Six linocuts and a drawing appeared in this issue, as well as an essay about Richter by the art critic Theodor Däubler entitled 'Künstlerischer Neuerscheinungen: Hans Richter'. This essay was the first serious review written about him, his aims and work as an artist [in: Die Aktion 6 (March 25, 1916) 181)].
- June 7: Together with Erich Heckel, Richter had his first comprehensive exhibition at the Galerie Neue Kunst, located on the Briennerstrasse in Munich and owned by Hans Goltz. Richter designed a poster depicting a musical theme and was represented with 70 works (including portraits of Joahannes Baader and Raoul Hausmann). In the preface of the exhibition catalogue written by Richter, Dada ideas were anticipated.
- Richter married Elisabeth Steinert on 28 August. He traveled to Zürich with his wife to consult the specialist Professor Veraguth about his back injuries and used this as the opportunity he had been waiting for "to get out of Germany." On 15 September, Richter kept the appointment he had made two years prior to meet his Berlin friends in Zürich - and thereby met the initial core of the Dada group, which had formed in February.
- IMAGE CREDITS
Poster by Hans Richter, printed in black offset lithography on buff-colored stock. 882 x 710 mm. The poster promotes a series of 'soirées for new literature' which Hans Goltz organized with members of the 'Neue Jugend' circle in Berlin. One of these evenings is recorded to have taken place in November 1916.
- In January, Richter designed a large poster announcing the first 'Dada Exhibition' of abstract art at the Galerie Corray, located at Bahnhofstraße 19. He exhibited paintings there with Otto van Rees, Marcel Janco, Hans Arp, Johann von Tscharner, Adya van Rees-Dutilh, Oscar Lüthy, and Walter Helbig, and works of art from Africa. On 23 March the grand opening of the Galerie Dada at the Galerie Corray took place. Richter raised funds for the event. On 9 April the second exhibition of German painters from Berlin's Sturm Galerie opened at the Galerie Dada.
- Richter, however, still kept up ties with colleagues in Berlin. He contributed two drawings to the 17 April issue of Die Aktion, honoring the poet and editor Ludwig Rubiner.
- From 2 May to 29 May the third exhibition at the Galerie Dada took place, in which children's drawings were included. At the end of May, Hugo Ball broke with Dada and left Zürich. He considered suing Tzara for misappropriating the funds of the Galerie Dada, but was dissuaded from doing so by Richter.
- During May, June, and July, Ludwig Rubiner published three of Richter's linocuts in his magazine Zeit-Echo ('Der heilige Mitmensch', 'An die Mütter Europas' and 'An den Sieger'). In the essay printed in Zeit-Echo titled 'Ein Maler spricht zu den Malern' [3 (June 1917) 19-23], Richter vented his feelings about the horrors of war and expressed his views on the political and social responsibility of the artist. This was Richter's first written statement on the artist and political awareness.
- Richter oscillated between the idea of the political responsibility of the artist - an idea coming from the Aktion circle - and the humanist belief in the immanent good of man and his final transcendence of evil to create a better world. Richter's pacifist convictions began to waver. He felt he must be more politically active and use more direct approaches to resolve the conflict that war posed for him.
Richter attended meetings of the anarchist group; his interest in pacifist theory ended. He had a falling out with Ludwig Rubiner, probably because Richter's art did not fulfill Rubiner's criterion for a universally understood art. After Richter's falling out with Rubiner, he switched camps without further reservation and joined Dada.
- Richter began painting the Visionary Portraits, finding expression in a spontaneity governed by chance and the unconscious.
- In July appeared the first issue of Dada, edited by Tristan Tzara.
- IMAGE CREDITS
1917. Janvier-février. Galerie Corray, Bahnhofstr., Zürich. 1. Dada-Ausstellung. Van Rees, Arp, Janco, Tscharner, Mme. Van Rees, Lüthy, Richter, Helbig, art nègre, Succès éclatant: l’art nouveau. Tzara fait 3 conférences: 1/cubisme, 2/art ancien et art nouveau, 3/l’art présent. Grande affiche de Richter, affiche de Janco. Quelques vieilles anglaises prennent soigneusement des notes. Citation Tzara.
- January: Richter felt the need to apply more structure to his drawings. He met the Italian composer, Ferruccio Busoni, who advised Richter to study Bach's Clavier-Büchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach (1725) in order to learn more exactly the principles of counterpoint. India ink pen and brush drawings titled 'Dada Köpfe' were the result of these formal studies.
- Early spring: Helmuth Viking Eggeling arrived in Zürich. Tristan Tzara introduced Richter to the Swedish painter. This meeting marked the beginning of an artistic collaboration with far-reaching effects. Eggeling had begun to create a vocabulary of abstract form, intending to explore its grammar and syntax by combining the forms into pairs of contrapuntal opposites within a system based on mutual attraction and repulsion of paired forms.
- On 23 July Tristan Tzara directed the Dada soireé at the Zunfthaus zur Meise. He recited his Manifeste Dada 1918 . Laban School members performed dances, wearing masks made by Marcel Janco. Richter designed the poster advertising the event.
- Emmy Hennings looked for an artist to illustrate her book Gefängnis. Richter began a large series of sketches and drawings on this subject. The first edition was published in 1918. A second edition, a more simple edition without the drawings, was published by Erich Reiss Verlag in Berlin [online facsimile].
- From September to October the exhibition 'Die Neue Kunst' was held at the Kunstsalon Wolfsberg in Zürich. Hans Arp, Baumann, Emmy Hennings, Marcel Janco, Morach, and Hans Richter participated. Richter showed 11 oil paintings on the theme of the Visionäre Portraits and four drawings. The exhibition signaled the end of the period of 'balance' within Dada for Richter. It was marked by a parallel exhibition of works by Francis Picabia that took place simultaneously in another wing of the gallery.
- On 7 November Kurt Eisner led an uprising in Munich and attempted to establish a socialistic democracy. A day later revolution broke out in Germany. Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated; Fritz Ebert became chancellor. The end of the war brought about the end of Dada in Zürich; the Zürich Dadas joined other progressive artists in Switzerland, forming the group 'Das Neue Leben' in Basel. Richter did not participate in the group's first exhibition. The Dada artists worked under the name of 'Das Neue Leben' until 1922.
- December 3: The Novembergruppe met for the first time in Berlin.
- Dada 3 appeared. Richter contributed two black and white linocuts on the Dada Headtheme to the German issue, and three to the French edition of the magazine.
- 15 January: Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were murdered by the Freikorps. In the beginning of February, Hans Richter traveled from Lugano to Bern at the request of René Schickele, editor of the literary and political magazine Die Weißen Blätter, to draw portraits of prominent political figures representing socialist parties and labor organizations of all countries, who were attending the first postwar meeting of the Second International. A small minority in attendance demanded revolution, nationalization of property, and immediate implementation of socialism, following the Russian example. Quickly overruled, the group repaired to Moscow and founded a new, Third International in conjunction with the Russian Communist Party. Kurt Eisner was also present at the meeting in Bern. It is probable that Richter met with Eisner on this occasion.
- February 21: Kurt Eisner was assassinated by Count Anton Arco-Valley. In March Richter traveled first to Munich and then to Berlin to participate in the political events in the making, then returned to Switzerland. On 7 April the Revolutionary Central Committee in Munich (including the literary leaders Ernst Toller, Erich Mühsam, and Gustav Landauer) proclaimed the Council Republic. It collapsed after a week because of internal discord and the communists' refusal to support it.
- In April Richter founded the Bund Radikaler Künstler [=Association of Radical Artists] in Zürich, calling for radical art reform, redefinition of the role of art in society, and the participation of artists in the formation and ideological evolution of the state. The manifesto proclaimed abstract art as the only acceptable form of art.
- 9 April: The 8th Dada soirée, and the last Dada event in Zürich, took place in the Saal zur Kaufleuten. The program, under the direction of Walter Serner, was divided into three parts. Viking Eggeling held a discourse on abstract art and Hans Richter read a piece called 'Gegen, Ohne, Für Dada'. Richter and Arp designed sets for the dances choreographed by Sophie Taeuber, which the Laban School troupe performed. Richter may also have read his 'Manifest radikaler Künstler' to the audience. This manifesto, which set up an all-encompassing program for radical art reform redefining the role of art in society, failed to go to press as planned because of Richter's sudden departure for Munich.
- Richter received a telegram from his political friends in Munich, where revolution had broken out, telling him that he was needed and had to come at once. He went in a great hurry immediately after the 8th Dada soirée ended. In Munich he joined his friends Alfred Wolfenstein, Nelly Sachs, Frida Rubiner, and Heinrich Davringhausen, and his brother Richard Richter.
The Räte Republik (Council Republic) led by the literary anarchists Ernst Toller, Erich Mühsam, and Gustav Landauer collapsed on 13 April after one week of existence. The Communists Eugen Leviné, Max Levien, and Towia Axel'rod took power in Munich. On 19 April, during his stay in Munich, Richter was appointed chairman of the Action Committee of Revolutionary Artists, in charge of the seven units of the Kunstkommissariat on matters concerning painting.
22 April: Richter attended the meeting of the Action Committee. Points on the agenda were raising funds for social welfare, sale of the inventory of the palaces in Bavaria to foreign countries, and confiscation of important buildings in Munich, such as the royal palace.
On 23 April the Action Committee discussed the topic of general health insurance coverage for all artists.
At the 24 April meeting of the Action Committee, it was decided that Richter should read the Zürich Manifesto to the other Commissariat members. The Munich Council Republic met for the last time on 30 April. It was riven by disagreement between the communists and the Unabhängigen Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands (USPD); Levien and Leviné resigned, ending the Munich Sovjet. Twenty royalists and conservatives taken hostage were murdered by retaliating revolutionary groups.
On 1 May The Bavarian Freikorps under Baron van Epp and troops of the rival state government sitting in Bamberg took Munich with much bloodshed, killing one thousand people in six days. Landauer was murdered on 2 May. Richter tried to leave Munich and return to Zürich via Austria. He and his brother Richard were arrested, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Ida Richter intervened on behalf of her sons. Through her influential connections at the Ministry of Justice, the brothers were released after two weeks' detainment.
- 4 May: A column about the 'Manifest radikaler Künstler Zürich' was published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
- The last publication of Dada appeared on 15 May. It contained two wood cuts by Richter, an illustration of his oil painting Portrait Makabre, and his manifesto 'Gegen, Ohne, Für Dada'.
The first issue of Der Dada, edited by Raoul Hausmann, George Grosz, and John Heartfield (Helmut Herzfelde) appeared in Berlin.
- Richter returned to Zürich, resuming his studies of opposites with Viking Eggeling. Eggeling was in the process of creating an elementary syntax of form relationships for a 'Universal Language' he called Generalbasz der Malerei. In mid-September, Hans Arp, Walter Serner, and Tristan Tzara staged the 9th Dada soirée in Zürich. In November the first and only issue of Der Zeltweg was published. The editors planned to publish 'The Radical Artists' Manifesto' but later discarded the idea. A second issue of Zeltweg was planned but did not materialize. In December Tzara left for Paris. This occasioned the end of Dada activities in Zürich.
- Eggeling and Richter wrote the pamphlet 'Universelle Sprache' in which they likened abstract form to a kind of universallanguage that everyone was capable of understanding. In June they sent this tract to prospective sponsors whom they asked to confirm their support to the Universum-Film AG (UFA) studios. Eggeling and Richter received a grant from the UFA studio. They rented an animation studio and hired a film technician.
The experiments at the UFA studio proved unsatisfactory. Discouraged with the difficulties, Eggeling and Richter no langer saw eye to eye on how to continue. Richter decided to animate simpler geometric forms. The drawing 'Fuge' was finished. Richter and Eggeling took part in the exhibition 'Gruppe Neues Leben' in Basel.
- The Dada Messe was held in Berlin, where the politically leftist Berlin Dadas were avidly interested in the art of the Russian Revolution. At the doors of the fair, a huge sign read, 'Art is dead, long live Tatlin's new machine art'.
- November-December: Theo van Doesburg came from Holland to Klein-Kölzig because he had heard about Eggeling and Richter's work. He encouraged Richter to publish a journal on the same lines as his magazine De Stijl as a platform for Dada ideas.
- Van Doesburg returned to Germany. Richter, estranged from his first wife Elisabeth, married Maria van Vanselow, a member of the Zürich Laban dance group.
- 10 May: Van Doesburg wrote an article called 'Abstracte Filmbeelding' in De Stijl, vol. 4 nr. 5 in which he described Eggeling and Richter's cooperative efforts to overcome "the static nature of easel painting."
- Ludwig Hilberseimer, the Berlin architect and city planner, wrote the article 'Bewegungskunst' in the Sozialistischen Monatshefte, published 23 May.
- Richter's and Eggeling's article 'Prinzipielles zur Bewegungskunst' was published in De Stijl in July. Richter's drawings 'Schwer/Leicht' and 'Horizontal/Vertical' accompanied the article.
- Richter introduced Kurt Schwitters to Theo van Doesburg.
- Late fall: Richter came to the conclusion that filmmaking was governed by laws that did not apply to painting. He decided to discard form altogether and articulate time in various rhythms and tempi instead. He adopted film and the oblong film format as the material he would work with. The single forms no longer had any meaning whereby the relation and interaction of the forms became relevant.
Richter's first film, called 'Film ist Rhythmus', was completed around December. The film's running length was one and a half minutes. Theo van Doesburg showed this film fragment during a lecture.
- The art historian Adolf Behne wrote 'Der Film als Kunstwerk' for the Sozialistischen Monatsheften, describing Eggeling and Richter's project.
To finance further film experiments, Richter produced commercial films on a small scale. Köschel, the florist shop located on the ground floor of the building where he lived, hired him to advertise its wares. He installed a film projector in an upper-story window of his apartment and projected animated figures onto the sidewalk below. Crowds gathered and had to be dispersed by the police.
- In February Richter met Werner Gräff, a Bauhaus student, who soon became his assistant. According to Gräff, Richter was working on a new film score, in later years named 'Fugue in Red and Green', mistakenly dated 1923 but already completed in 1922 at the time of Gräff's first visits to Richter's studio. Gräff questioned the shape of Richter's upright forms when the shape of the cinema screen was horizontal. Because Richter conceived Fugue in Red and Green of 1922 as a predominantly white on black animated film, the positive copy had to be colored red and green-frame by frame-by hand.
- Richter and Gerd Caden founded the Constructivist Group in Berlin. It was an extension of the Gruppe Neues Leben from Basel and the Bund Radikaler Künstler in Zürich.
- Spring: At the height of the German hyperinflation, the Richter family was forced to sell the estate in Klein-Kölzig. Hans Richter was estranged from his second wife Maria von Vanselow. Richter and Eggeling's friendship was strained, leading to the end of their collaboration.
- March: The Sovjet government commissioned El Lissitzky to prepare the 'First Russian [Art] Exhibition in Berlin'. The Russians exhibited six hundred works of art at the Galerie van Diemen. Lissitzky asked Eggeling and Hans Richter to collaborate on the magazine Veshch-Objet-Gegenstand. Eggeling was not interested; rather than collaborate on Veshch, Richter decided to set up his own magazine.
- May: Theo and Nelly van Doesburg moved to Weimar. A meeting of the International Congress of Progressive Artists took place in Düsseldorf from 29 to 31 May. Richter attended, representing his magazine G (Gestaltung), the first issue of which was still in planning. Schwitters represented his periodical Merz, van Doesburg De Stijl, Lissitzky Veshch, and Moholy-Nagy MA. In a cooperative declaration that van Doesburg published in De Stijl, the representatives of the journals expressed their hope that they "will no jonger be tossed about between the two societies, one of which has no need of them, and the other which does not yet exist, and that they will be in a position to transform the present world."
- In September, at the Bauhaus in Weimar, members of the Congress of the Constructivists held a meeting at which they celebrated an official farewell to Dada. Tristan Tzara traveled from Paris to deliver the funeral oration for Dada.
- Richter published the first issue of G in July and the second in September. These two issues appeared in newspaper format and carried the subtitle Material zur elementaren Gestaltung (The next three issues appearing in June 1924, March 1926 and April 1926, bare the subtitle Zeitschrift für elementare Gestaltung.) The editorial staff was composed of Richter, Werner Gräff, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Articles were contributed by artists and architects such as Mies, Tzara, Gabo, Pevsner, Malevich, Kiesier, van Doesburg, Arp, Schwitters, Lissitzky, Hausmann, Grosz, Man Ray, and Richter.
- Richter completed two horizontal scrolls in oil, 'Rhythmus 23' and 'Fuge 23'. The third scroll Richter completed is called 'Orchestration der Farbe' and has a vertical format.
- 6 July: The final Dada soirée, 'Soirée du coeur à barbe', took place in Paris at the Théatre Michel. Richter's 'Film ist Rhythmus', or 'Rhythmus 23', was shown, along with films by Man Ray (Retour à la raison) and Charles Sheeler (La fumée de New York). The performance ended in a riot.
- A collective exhibition of work by artists and writers contributing to G was arranged at the Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover.
- Richter completed 'Rhythmus 25', his last abstract film. He hand-colored the film frame by frame in primary and secondary colors. Because of the high cost of production only one copy was made, and it was later lost.
Marion von Hofacker, 'Chronology', in Hans Richter. Activism, Modernism, and the Avant-Garde / ed. by Stephen Forster (MIT Press : Cambridge MA etc. 1998) 240-278.
- IMAGE CREDITS
banner: Hans Richter in Hoppengarten Military Hospital (detail), 1916 [Collection of Marion von Hofacker]