Emmy Hennings

“Impulsive, enigmatic, creative, and at offs with her materialistic culture, Emmy Hennings personifies the Dada movement with which she was so intimately involved. A complex and restless person, she wrote poetry and novels, made dolls and puppets, and helped establish the Cabaret Voltaire which launched the movement.” 

– Quote by Thomas F. Rugh in “Emmy Hennings and the Emergence of Zurich Dada.” Woman’s Art Journal 2.1 (1981): 1-6. 

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Emmy Hennings (First Draft)


German writer and performance artist

Born Feb 17, 1885 in Flensburg, Germany  

Died Aug 10, 1948 in Tessin, Switzerland

Biographical Detail: 

1908 Started to pursue a career as a performing artist, travelling and appearing in shows in cities as Moscow, Budapest and Cologne

1913 Settled in Munich, where she became an intimate of the expressionist poets, playwrights, and novelists

Met Hugo Ball (writer and philosopher) in Munich while performing at the Café Simplizissimus and later married him

Spring 1914 Hennings was arrested and imprisoned for forging passports; she was released and the charges dropped after six weeks of claiming her innocence

Nov 1914 Joined Ball in Berlin, sang at restaurants and worked as an artist’s model 

May 1915 Hennings and Ball fled to Zurich, Switzerland in order to escape the increasing nationalism in Berlin

1916 The couple decided to start a cabaret, the Cabaret Voltaire, which they opened on February 5, 1916; Hennings is one of the star attractions at the cabaret: she presented international songs and ballads as well as her own poems and poetry written by other Dadaists

1920 Underwent a conversion to Catholicism by being baptized and distanced herself from the Dada movement;

In the same year, she married Hugo Ball 

Selection of Works: 

Gefängnis (1918)

Ruf und Echo: Mein Leben mit Hugo Ball (1920)

Helle Nacht (1922) (Collected Poems)

Das Fluchtige Spiel (1942)


Rugh, Thomas F. “Emmy Hennings and the Emergence of Zurich Dada.” Woman’s Art Journal 2.1 (1981): 1-6. Web.

http://www.dada-compation.com, Emmy Hennings (Link to Website)

http://www.theredlist.com, Emmy Hennings (Link to Website)

Artist’s Estate: 

Schweizerisches Literaturarchiv der Schweizerischen Nationalbibliothek, Bern (Link to Website)

Story map of the artist’s life: