Kurt Schwitters ~ Biog. :: Gallery :: Prints

Header Picture: from Merz. Issue 21: Das Veilchen (The Violet). © Estate of Kurt Schwitters.

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Kurt Schwitters ~ Biography

  • Known as: Poet & abstract painter
  • Genres: Constructivism, Dadaism, Surrealism
  • Influenced by: Kandinsky
  • Fame: Creator of Merz
  • Born: June 20, 1887, Hannover, Germany
  • Date of death: January 8, 1948, Kendal, Lake District, UK
  • Buried: Originally Ambleside, Lake District
  • Later: Disinterred (1960) & reburied in Hannover, Germany

    Kurt Schwitters studied art in Dresden and when he was around 30, began to experiment with abstract pictures. The experiments included collages with pieces of torn-up paper attached to them. Merz was how he described his assemblages and around 1920, he began his first Merzebau. This was such a huge construction that it nearly filled a house.

    In 1929, he visited in Norway. Eight years later, he emigrated there before fleeing to Britain in 1940 when the Nazis invaded Norway. He was interred at Douglas Camp, Isle of Man, then lived in London, and finally moved to the Lake District in the north of England.

    He died in 1948 at the age of 60.

    Kurt Schwitters ~ Trivia

  • His Merz pictures were included in the Nazi exhibition of degenerate art in Munich
  • Three of his works are in Kendal, Lake District, near his English home
  • He was never a direct participant of Dada activities
  • Was an extremely accomplished typographer
  • His best known work as a typographer was the catalogue for the Dammerstocksiedlung in Karlsruhe
  • Merz came from one of his collages with pieces of torn-up paper attached to them. One such piece had the letters M E R Z in red capitals torn from the advertisement of a Bank (Commerrz und Privatbank)
  • He created art from non-art - bus passes, bits of lino, worn-out shoe soles
  • Had a hut on the Norwegian island of Hjertoya, near Molde
  • In 2005, his work appeared in the Dada exposition at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
  • The Kurt Schwitters Archive at the Sprengel Museum in Hannover specialise in authenticating his work
  • Schwitters is now one of the most faked artists of the 20th-century

    Kurt Schwitters ~ Selected Works

  • Merzbau (First, now destroyed) (c. 1920)
  • Ursonate (Sound poetry) (1922-32)
  • Merz (Magazine) (1923-32)
  • Die Herbstzeitlose (Sculpture) (1929)
  • Merzbau (Second, Norway, now destroyed) (1937-40)
  • An Anna Blume (Poem)
  • Merzbarn (Last Merzbau, Ambleside, Lake District) (One wall now at Hatton Gallery, Newcastle; shell at Ambleside) (1947)

    Kurt Schwitters ~ Collections

    (not listed above)

    Museum of Modern Art, New York
    Tate, London

    09.02.14 ~ Kurt Schwitters BBC Countryfile Piece

    There was a short but fascinating piece on Countryfile on Sunday, 9th Feb. 2014 on BBC1 about Kurt Schwitter's life in Ambleside, Lake District.

    The seemingly always sunny presenter Ellie Harrison visited the area and the places where she thought the ghosts of the artist could be found and though interesting it wasn't really that which grapped me nor the musings of the famous artist, Russell Mills who also resides in Ambleside and acknowledges the influence of Schwitters on his own work. He gave the reason that Schwitters is, inexplicably, not that well-known in the UK as the fact that Britons like to pigeonhole artists and you couldn't do that with Schwitters as he was so versatile. I don't think it is that but then I don't think there is a sufficient reason why he is undervalued other than the fact that there hasn't been a concerted interest from the media to promote his work in the last 60 years or so. If there was, even now, then you would soon see the level of interest in his work go out of this orbit. No one can question the importance or beauty of the work - it's just 'there' waiting to be discovered by the general public.

    All interesting as I said but what fascinated me was the programme finding a 95 year old resident, Jo Clarke, who knew Schwitters. She would have been in her twenties when she knew the artist. For me, her stories on him brought Schwitters alive.

    From her magical tales I learnt he was penniless and the first think he would ask her was 'have you any food?'. She showed the presenter the precise spot in Ambleside she first bumped (literally) into the artist. Really, really made the hairs on the back of your head stand on end.

    Also, in need of money, he would paint local houses and the word would get out to residents that Schwitters had painted their house and he would sell them for 2 and 6p on a Saturday and if they hadn't sold by Sunday they would be 6p! Jo didn't buy one as she didn't like his landscapes but loved the collages he refused to sell as they were 'very personal to him'.

    Wonderful interview.

    Hopefully, this little piece on mainstream British TV will kickstart a media interest in him and his work.

    © ~ Paul Page, 2014

    Kurt Schwitters ~ Gallery

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    All images © Estate of Kurt Schwitters.

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    Kurt Schwitters: Biog. >> Trivia >> Selected Works >> Collections >> Schwitters Countryfile Article >> Gallery >> Art Prints >> Kurt Schwitters official prints are available at Allposters.com >> Advertise >> Kurt Schwitters Books available @ amazon.com

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