Kurt Schwitters 1887-1948

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Kurt Schwitters lived a full life from 1887-1948. He was a painter, sculptor, designer and writer. He originated from Germany, and moved to England in 1940. Immediately after his arrival he started to intern in a camp on the Isle of Man continuing his work. In October 1941 he moved to London, a few years later he moved to Little Langdale, near Ambleside in the Lake District where he lived the rest of his life, often painting portraits for clients.

In 1924 Kurt set up his own advertising and design agency in Hannover, the Merz-Werbezentrale. Some of his accounts being Wagner, makers of Pelikan inks and of Bahlsen biscuits. He showed new forms of typography and “was the guiding light of an association of modernist advertising agents”. In 1927, him and friedrich Vordemberge-gildewart forming a group known as ‘die abstrakten hannover’ (aka the abstract Hanover).

He began to make collages called Merzbilder. Most were made from waste materials picked up in the streets and parks. In these pieces of waste “he saw the creation of fragile new beauty out of the ruins of German culture. Along the same path he wrote his poetry from snip its of conversations and phrases from random newspapers and magazines.

Kurt had a specific philosophy and a one-man movement referred to as Merz. This particular word derives from a part of the word Kommerz, used in early assemblage which he gave multiple meanings, most used being ‘refuse’ or ‘rejects’. In 1919 he wrote

“The word Merz denotes essentially the combination, for artistic purposes, of all conceivable matericals, and, technically, the principle of the equal distribution of the individual materials… A perambulator wheel, wire-netting, string and cotton wool factors having equal rights with paint”.

These materials were incorporated in his large assemblages and painted collages of this period. He also wrote

“Every form is the frozen instantaneous picture of a process.”

Source: Kurt Schwitters, MoMA