Books we love: Hannah Höch's Picture Book

With a background in art history my heart beats a bit extra for those books that combine important cultural and art historical material with children's literature. What gift could be greater to put in the hands of your little ones than such valuable imagery and stories created by talented creative minds from the mishmash of our common cultural, social and pictorial history? Hannah Höch's wonderful Picture Book from 1945 is such a book. Not only does it speak about a fabulating, vegetating green world inhabitated by strange creatures, it also - on a deeper level - tells us a story about our own culture and the world we inhabit. 

Hannah Höch (1889-1978) played an unusual big role as a female artist in Germany's Modernist period. She was a significant member of the Dadaist movement and together with Raoul Hausmann she developed the specific Dada photomontages, which is also her technique in the Picture Book. My kids might be a bit too yong to understand the impact of this fantastic woman and the story about a female artist working in a male dominated and politically very turbulent time - but they are impulsively attracted to her whimsical, luring and strange imagery. They giggle when I tell them about Little Baby Gamma, Snifty, the Snipplesnapplewings and Gentlebread whom are some of the fabulous creatures we meet throughout the Picture Book. But most of all they look. And they look again and again recognizing bits of the imagery that have been stolen from elsewhere and brought together in this perfect pêle-mêle that is Hannah Höch's photomontages. 

The Dadaistic photomontages were an elaborated exercise in finding new images in already excisting ones and combining them anew into absurd hybrid figures. The Picture Book was created shortly after the Second World War in the grey and hopeless afterwar reality. With its inserted colourful and vibrant paper fibres and its surreal imagery it speaks of a world full of hope, life and vegetation - as an alternative for the playful, creative, childish mind. It isn't only a pure mythical world though - because the creatures do have diverse humane characteristics (for better or worse) and the photomontages do speak of a split up reality with a subtle critisism and a fruitful awareness lying just below the many cut-out layers. 

"Seing is more important than painting and drawing; it can't be learned. You have to know how to see", Hannah Höch told her nephew when he was a boy. Her Picture Book does force us to use our eyes and just see. 

Happy reading - Inger Marie // finurlig.net 

Hannah Höch: Picture Book, 1945. Published by The Green Box Kunst Editionen, 2010.
ISBN 978-3-941644-13-7
Purchase the book at The Green Box