Schwitters, Kurt

(1887-1948)
   artist; best known for a three-dimensional collage called Merz. Born to a retailer in Hanover, he attended Realgymnasium; after studying briefly at Hanover's Kunstgewerbeschule,he spent 1909-1914 at the Dresden Kunstakademie. In 1911 he entered his first work in an exhibition of the Hanover Kunstverein. Drafted in 1917, he was deemed unfit for active duty and was conscripted as a draftsman to a metallurgy factory near Hanover. The proximity of machines inspired his love for abstract art and convinced him to study architecture at Hanover's Technische Hoch-schule.
   Early in 1918 Schwitters made contact with the artists centered on Herwarth Walden's* journal Der Sturm. Uniting with the avant-garde and making his first break with the provincialism of Hanover, he was soon exhibiting at Berlin's* Galerie der Sturm and publishing in the journal; by 1924 more than seventy of his works—poems, articles, and art reproductions—had appeared in Sturm. Meanwhile, Walden staged his first solo show in April 1920. Schwitters took part in the one hundredth Sturm exhibition in September 1921. But he soon returned to Hanover and was gradually rebuffed by the strident Dadaists centered on George Grosz* and John Heartfield*; indeed, Schwitters's irreverent concept of Dada* was more suited to Hans Arp (a close friend) and Max Ernst.*
   For Schwitters, Dada was embodied in Merz. Derived from the second syl-lable of "Kommerz" (commerce), Merz was his rejection of objective represen-tation. Building a collage from pieces of junk—broken glass, Strassenbahn and theater* tickets, and rusty nails—he claimed, in the wake of the November Revolution,* that a new life would have to arise from remnants of the past. By 1920 his Merz had evolved into a Merzbau: a three-dimensional construction that eventually filled his house. It was destroyed in a 1943 air raid.
   Schwitters gave lectures throughout western and central Europe known as Merz-Evenings; sometimes signing his name "Merz," he initiated the periodical Merz in 1923 from his Hanover-based Merzverlag. Merz provided an outlet for the ideas and work of numerous artists (Arp, Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Hoch,* Laszlo Moholy-Nagy,* Pablo Picasso, and Tristan Tzara). Yet Schwitters's truly creative years were over by 1923, and his prestige with the avant-garde waned. By 1923 he had worked for several firms as a professional advertising artist. Applying his ideas in his graphic art, he inspired some of the work completed at the Bauhaus* and helped found a Hanover group in 1927 called Abstrakten. He had also published several short stories by 1933. Although the NSDAP ignored him, he left Germany in 1937 when several of his works appeared in Munich's Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition. He lived in Norway until the German invasion of 1940, when he fled to England. He remained there until his death.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Clair, 1920s; Elderfield, Kurt Schwitters; Heller, Stark Impressions; Schmalenbach, Kurt Schwitters.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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  • Schwitters, Kurt — born June 20, 1887, Hannover, Ger. died Jan. 8, 1948, Little Langdale, Westmorland, Eng. German Dada artist and poet. Associated with the Berlin Dadaists from 1918, he moved back to Hannover in 1924. He assembled collages and other constructions… …   Universalium

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  • SCHWITTERS (K.) — SCHWITTERS KURT (1887 1948) À Hanovre, l’histoire du mouvement Dada s’identifie à un seul homme, Kurt Schwitters, qui incarne encore plus que ses compatriotes Hausmann, Ball ou Ernst l’esprit farouchement individualiste et anarchiste du dadaïsme …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Schwitters — (Kurt) (1887 1948) peintre, sculpteur et écrivain allemand; représentant du mouvement Dada à Hanovre. Il utilisa le déchet pour réaliser des collages …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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