Kurt Schwitters

German (1887 - 1948)
Kurt Schwitters Mz 129 rot oben [Mz 129 Red on top] 1920 © DACS 2018.

Biography

Born 1887
Died 1948
Nationality German
Birth place Hannover
Death place Kendal

Born and based for most of his life in Hanover, Schwitters began composing collages and assemblages from junk and everyday ephemera in 1919. He called these works 'Merz', a term derived from the cut-up letterhead of a bank used in one of his collages. Schwitters later used 'Merz' to refer to all his artistic activities, including painting, sculpture, typography and installation. He transformed the interior of much of his house in Hanover into a fantastic work of art - the so-called 'Merz building'. He is often seen as a Dadaist, but while Dada defined itself as anti-art, Schwitters asserted that his work was art. The artist fled Nazi Germany in 1937, living first in Norway before settling in England in 1940.

Glossary terms

  • The term Degenerate Art (German: Entarte Kunst), was coined in the 1930s by the Nazis to ridicule modern art that did not fit with Hitler’s vision.  Confiscated by the German government, exhibitions of "Degenerate" artworks took place in cities including Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig. In addition to this ridicule, the Mazi's forbade artists branded with the term from exhibiting or holding teaching posts.

  • An art practice developed in the second half of the twentieth  century that broke away from the view of a sculpture as a singular object to be looked at. Instead, installation artists create an environment that may surround the viewer. Many are temporary or created for a particular location.