Hannah Höch’s Bilderbuch [Picture Book] from 1945 is now finally available in English, through the ingenious translation by Brian Currid.
The Picture Book presents the fantastic adventures of Runfast, Dumblet, Snifty and Meyer 1, mythical creatures which seem like a dream in a zoological garden, surrounded by fairy tale flowers and plants. Yet, it is not only a wonderful book for children, but an important cultural and historic document, as it was created by Hannah Höch, the most important female artist of the Modernist period in Germany. It is designed through the Dadaistic principle of photomontage which Höch developed, together with Raoul Hausmann, in the early years of the 20th century.
Gunda Luyken writes in her essay about the book: “To counter the grey postwar years, Höch developed in 19 collages and accompanying texts a magical world populated by fantastic exotic plants and animals. People play no role here, apart from the baby emerging from one of the eggs that Madame Marklet has collected around her. … Although Höch always spoke of her ‘picture book’, the texts are an essential part of the work. For each of the collages, the artist thought up brief, delicate rhymes that sketch out miniature stories and are reminiscent of the verses of Joachim Ringelnatz or Christian Morgenstern. She gave her impish creatures the oddest names—Loftylara, Brushflurlet, Unsatisfeedle and Runfast. Although Höch conjured up in images and words a fantastic world, it is one not free of human weaknesses like dissatisfaction or disagreement, as represented, for example, by the couple Longfringes. All the same, the book exudes a cheerfulness and light-heartedness that the philosopher and writer Salomon Friedländer also attributed to the artist herself: ‘Basically, you are a fabulous and wonderful girl—and whoever doesn’t get you must be a dull and totally impossible guy. And who does understand you? A child, just like you.'”