How the Emotions of World War 1 Sparked the Dada Movement

Art can come in many forms, such as painting, sculpture, cinema, and writing, as well as a variety of styles. As a Graphic Designer, it is required to understand how every design style was influenced by different historical movements. How the knowledge we understand about these historic art movements reflect the quality and tools we use today. The drastic visual changes of historically influenced design styles, ranging from Cubism, to Futurism, to Dada, to Constructivism, highlight the changes of societal emotions throughout history in new and varying art forms. Each of them uniquely express different aspects of modern life.

The Dada Movement was an art movement that occurred in 1910 as a reaction to World War 1. It was an expression and protest of the trauma that was going on in the 1900s against nationalist and colonialist interests and stems from a response to World War 1, the Industrial Revolution, and different international conflicts.

To understand The Dada Movement, we need to be aware of the societal emotions that were being expressed during this time-period. (Elder, Bruce. Dada, Surrealism, and the cinematic effect. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier U Press, 2013. Print). The emotions being expressed by The Dada Movement were a form of protest against modern ideals. Artists in the 1900s such as Francis Picabia, Hans Arp, and Marcel Duchamp, understood that the horrors of World War were heavily influenced by the effects of new technology being developed at the time, particularly guns and weapons. Thus as a result of the frightening possibilities of these new technologies, artists began to reevaluate the stance of where art was heading and wanted to create a new direction and perspective of Art. Disapproving ideas of modern technology and progress is what Dada represented.

World War 1 was an international war that affected nearly every society across the globe. By understanding how emotions and economic systems shape art movements, we can determine that The Dada Movement flourished because of the emotional trauma of World War 1.

The emotional state of a person caused by a historical event may lead to choices of lines, colors, and perspective by that artist. The emotions felt by artists as a result of World War 1 were nonsense, confusion and rebelliousness. The motivations of Dadaists to go against rules was thus an artistic demonstration of anger against World War 1.

The word “Dada” originated from irrational art movement. It got its name, according to Richard Huelsenbeck, a German artist living in Zurich, when he and Ball came upon the word in a French-German dictionary. To Ball, it fit. “Dada is ‘yes, yes’ in Rumanian, ‘rocking horse’ and ‘hobby horse’ in French,” he noted in his diary. “For Germans it is a sign of foolish naiveté, joy in procreation, and preoccupation with the baby carriage.” (Trachtman, P. (2006, May 01). A Brief History of Dada. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from

The Design styles we see today are influenced by the fresh approach Dadaist took in typography , page design, and lettering. A famous Dada artist named Kurt Schwitters , questions logical organization in society which represents in his design choices. The Design layout goes against all design techniques the Staaliches Bauhaus, a German art school operational from 1919 to 1933 was educating.


  • Dachy, M. (1990). The Dada movement, 1915–1923. New York: Rizzoli.
  • Trachtman, P. (2006, May 01). A Brief History of Dada. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from
  • Hopkins, D. (2006). Dada and Surrealism: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Lloyd-Jones, R., & Lewis, M. J. (2016). Arming the Western Front: war, business and the state in Britain 1900–1920. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
  • Adamowicz, E., & Robertson, E. (2012). Dada and beyond. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
  • Elder, B. (2013). Dada, surrealism, and the cinematic effect. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

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