Lot 17
  • 17

Christian Schad

150,000 - 250,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Christian Schad
  • Unique gelatin silver print
  • 3 1/8 x 2 1/4 inches
photogram, a unique object, printing-out-paper print, mounted, signed and dated in pencil on the reverse, framed, a Kunsthaus Zürich exhibition label on the reverse, 1919


Originally in the collection of Tristan Tzara

William Copley, New York

Private collection, United States

Timothy Baum, New York, 1998


Kunsthaus Zürich, Christian Schad 1894-1982, August - November 1997; and traveling thereafter to Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus; and Kunsthalle im Emden through April 1998

New York, Neue Galerie, Christian Schad and the Neue Sachlichkeit, March - June 2003


Tobia Bezzola, Günter A. Richter, et al., Christian Schad 1894-1982 (Kunsthaus Zürich, 1997), p. 73, no. 140 (this unique object)

Catalogue Note

Although cameraless photography had been used since the birth of the medium, it was largely abandoned until the early 20th century, when it was re-invigorated by such figures as Christian Schad, László Moholy-Nagy, and Man Ray.  This renewed interest is most often attributed to Man Ray in 1922, but the artist Christian Schad had been using the photogram process for his Dada-inspired work since 1919.  Schad was known primarily as a painter and proponent of Neue Sachlichkeit prior to his brief involvement in Zurich Dada in the late 1910s.  In true Dada fashion, he took the photogram out of the realm of traditional art subjects by placing such detritus as scraps of paper and fabric onto light-sensitive paper, resulting in his so-called Schadographs.  The name Schadograph was coined by Dada leader Tristan Tzara, as a play on both the artist's name and 'the shadowlike character of the pictures' (Experimental Vision, p. 9). 

The unique object offered here was originally in the collection of Tzara, a founding member of Dada in Zurich.  Tzara, a poet, authored the Dada Manifesto in 1918, thus becoming Dada's greatest propagandist.  He was largely responsible for bringing Dada to an international audience, most notably in Paris, where, through his connections to André Breton, Paris Dada was formed.  When Schad left Switzerland for Germany in 1920, his Schadographs were in the possession of his friend Walter Serner, who, excited about Schad's new work, forwarded them on to Tzara.  According to Dada authority Leah Dickerman, 'Tristan Tzara later carried a group of these tiny photographic compositions to Paris, whereupon Man Ray began to experiment with the technique, though the latter credited a darkroom accident for the new development' (Dada, p. 2).

It is believed that Schad produced only thirty Schadographs during the brief period he was affiliated with Zurich Dada, the present example among them.   Among other contemporaries who experimented with the process—most notably Man Ray, Moholy-Nagy, and El Lissitzky—Schad is the only one who liberated his photograms from the standard rectilinear format.   The Schadographs' unusual shapes, alternately curved and angled, look forward to the sculptural Holzreliefs (wood reliefs) he would create in 1919 and 1920.