Vintage Photos of Performance Artist Emmy Hennings (1885-1948)

Emmy Hennings (born Emma Maria Cordsen, 1885 – 1948) was a performer and poet. She was also the wife of celebrated Dadaist Hugo Ball.

Hennings and Ball moved to Zurich in 1915, where they took part in the founding of the Cabaret Voltaire, which marked the beginning of the Dada movement. Hennings was a regular performer at the Cabaret Voltaire. Her performances included a role in Das Leben des Menschen (the Life of a Man), in which she appeared with Ball.

In The Magic Bishop: Hugo Ball, Dada Poet, author Erdmute Wenzel White writes that Hennings “was admired by expressionists as the incarnation of the cabaret artist of her time… The shining star of the Voltaire, according to the Zuricher Post (Zurich Post), her role in Dada has not been adequately acknowledged.

After the Cabaret Voltaire ended, Hennings and Ball toured, performing mostly in hotels. Hennings sang, did puppetry, and danced to music composed by Ball. She also recited her own poetry. In 1916 Ball and Hennings created Arabella, their own ensemble troupe, where Hennings performed under the name Dagny.

Hennings married Ball on 21 February 1920. Although they had no children together, Hennings had a daughter, Annemarie, from a previous relationship. Hennings, who outlived Ball by two decades, lived in Magliaso, Switzerland from 1942 to 1948. She died at a clinic in Sorengo, Switzerland.

Emmy Hennings been almost completely erased from the history of the Dada movement. This was due to her own inner conflict, her extreme practice of Catholicism contrasting with her debauched bohemian lifestyle but also because of her constant rewriting of her story and that of Hugo Ball during the latter part of her life. Dada artists and historians thus preferred to eclipse the role Emmy Hennings and turned her into a naive eccentric adorned by a childish bob haircut (source).

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Emmy Hennings and her dada puppets, 1916 via

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Emmy Hennings, 1910-1913 via

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Emmy Hennings with her friends for Revolution Ball of “Action”, 1915 via

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Emmy Hennings, 1915 via

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Emmy Hennings, 1917-1918

Elegant Diana Vreeland Study for portrait by William Acton (1930s)

Diana Vreeland (1903 – 1989), was a noted columnist and editor in the field of fashion. She worked for the fashion magazines Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue and as a special consultant at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1964.

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Diana Vreeland. William Acton. DIAN VREELAND PRIVATE COLLECTION.
1930’s
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William Acton
Diana Vreeland. William Acton. DIAN VREELAND PRIVATE COLLECTION.
1930’s 
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Nancy Cunard (1896 –1965) – African Influenced Fashion Muse

Nancy Cunard was a writer, heiress and political activist. She was born into the British upper class and devoted much of her life to fighting racism and fascism. In 1928 Cunard had become romantically involved with African-American jazz musician Henry Crowder. They lived in an apartment in Harlem together, which prompted outraged tabloid headlines on both sides of the Atlantic.

About this time she became seriously interested in African art and culture.

Her style became informed by her devotion to the artifacts of the same culture. This was startlingly unconventional at the time. The large-scale jewelry she favored, crafted of wood, bone and ivory, the natural materials used by native crafts people, was provocative and controversial. The trademark bangles she wore on both arms snaking from wrist to elbow were considered outré adornments, which provoked media attention, visually compelling subject matter for photographers of the day.

She was often photographed wearing her collection, those of African inspiration and neckpieces of wooden cubes, which paid homage to the concepts of Cubism. At first considered the bohemian affectation of an eccentric heiress, the fashion world came to legitimize this style as avant-garde, dubbing it the “barbaric look.”

Nancy Cunard 1926 by Man Ray

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Nancy Cunard by Cecil Beaton

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Man Ray, Tristan Tzara kneeling to kiss Nancy Cunard’s hand, Bal du Comte de Beaumont, 1924

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Nancy Cunard by Cecil Beaton, 1929. © Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Sotheby’s London.

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Nancy Cunard

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Portraits of Virginia Woolf

Adeline Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) was an English writer and one of the foremost modernists of the twentieth century.

During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a central figure in the influential Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One’s Own (1929), with its famous dictum, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Woolf suffered from severe bouts of mental illness throughout her life, thought to have been the result of what is now termed bipolar disorder, and committed suicide by drowning in 1941 at the age of 59.

NPG P221; Virginia Woolf (nÈe Stephen) by George Charles Beresford

Virginia Woolf  by George Charles Beresford, 1902

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NPG P220; Virginia Woolf (nÈe Stephen) by George Charles Beresford

George Charles Beresford, Portrait of Virginia Woolf, 1902

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Virginia Woolf, 1920’s

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