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Kurt Schwitters (1887 - 1948)

Lifespan: 1887 - 1948

Related: German art - bricolage - Dada - Weimar culture - degenerate art - modern art - Surrealism Kurt Schwitters Google gallery

Merz 32A (Les Cérises) (1921) - Kurt Schwitters


Kurt Schwitters (June 20, 1887 - January 8, 1948) was a German painter who was born in Hanover, Germany.

Schwitters participated in the Dada movement during and after World War I. His particular contribution to that group was his Merz works, art pieces built up of found objects into large constructions or even what would later in the 20th century have been called 'installations'. The Sprengel Museum in Hanover has a reconstruction of the most famous of these installations, called 'Merzbau', which was a redesign of Schwitters's own apartment in Hanover. The original Merzbau was destroyed in an air raid during WWII. According to Schwitters, merz is derived from the name of the Commerzbank; the word is also notably similar to the French word merde.

In 1937, he was included in the Nazi exhibition of 'degenerate art' (Entartete Kunst) at Munich. Schwitters started a second Merzbau in exile in Oslo, Norway in 1937 but was forced to abandon it when the Nazis invaded; this structure was subsequently destroyed in a fire as well. He fled to England, initially being interned in Douglas Camp, Isle of Man. He spent time in London, then moved to the Lake District, where, in 1947, he began work on the last Merzbau, which he called the 'Merzbarn'. This last structure is now in the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle.

He composed and performed an early example of sound poetry, Ursonate (1922-32; the transliteration of the title is "Primordial Sonata"). His recording of this was later sampled by Brian Eno for "Kurt's Rejoinder" on his album Before and After Science (1977).

He is also the author of the poem "An Anna Blume".

He died in Kendal, England, and was buried in Ambleside. His grave was unmarked until 1966 when a stone was erected with the inscription "Kurt Schwitters – Creator of Merz". This stone remains as a memorial depite the fact that his body was later disinterred and reburied in Hannover, Germany, the grave being marked with a marble copy of his 1929 sculpture "Die Herbstzeitlose".

Kurt Schwitters, however, was never really involved in the Dada movement as such, though he was contemporary to it. In fact, he attempted to join the network of artists, largely based in Zurich but later present in Berlin, New York and so forth, only to be rejected by the leader of the Berlin movement, Richard Huelsenbeck, on the premise that Schwitters was 'too bourgeois' for Dada... thus the emergence of his MERZ magazine.

Japanese musician Merzbow took his name from Schwitters.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merz [Apr 2005] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Schwitters [Oct 2006]

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