Hannah Höch incorporated the image of a beetle into several of her photomontages. By analyzing three of her works, Untitled (c. 1920), From Above (c. 1922), and The Coquette (1923-25), I propose Höch’s beetle to be a response to the archeological understanding of the Egyptian scarab’s meaning of rebirth, which directly relates to the contemporary social phenomenon of the neue Frau, or New Woman. Thus, by removing the beetle from the focal points of these works, Höch represents the society’s rejection of the neue Frau as well as the Berlin Dadaists’ rejection of her.
To evaluate the significance of these beetles, this paper examines the social constructs produced by the Weimar Republic, specifically the New Woman. The New Woman was epitomized by a financially independent woman who has no legal ties to a man. While this idea was glorified within the media, the average New Woman was generally ostracized and disdained.
By deconstructing the photomontages, this paper emphasizes the importance of the beetle and its correlation to the scarab based on Höch’s ties to non-western art. Reviewing contemporary archeological records reveals the scarab was already associated with ideas of rebirth. Höch consciously makes the connection to the scarab’s meaning of rebirth by incorporating the beetle within these compositions. Simultaneously, the female gender role is reborn within German society.
It is important to note the obscure fashion in which Höch incorporates the beetle. The beetle generally exists outside of the main focal points. This subordination of the beetle to the dominant imagery reflects the unrealized ideal of the New Woman. Höch fit the mold for the New Woman, yet nonetheless was disdained by her male counterparts within the Dadaist group. Therefore, the beetle not only represents the idea of the New Woman, but also stands as a self-representation of Höch.
Waara, Hannah C.
"The Neue Frau and the Significance of Beetle Imagery in the Photomontages of Hannah Hӧch,"
DISCOVERY: Georgia State Honors College Undergraduate Research Journal: Vol. 2, Article 6.
Available at: https://scholarworks.gsu.edu/discovery/vol2/iss1/6