kurt schwitters merzbild reflects what artistic influence in its use of collage elements
The Hatton Gallery is home to the Merzbarn Wall. Constructed in a barn in the Lake District during 1947-48, and transported to the Hatton in 1965, the Merzbarn was Kurt Schwitters’ final, and in his own estimation, ‘greatest’, piece of work.
A merz can roughly be described as a “psychological collage”, which contains fragments of found objects, some with autobiographical elements.
The Entire City (1934) by Max Ernst,
the German Surrealist artist who
created a series of cityscapes,
using mixed-media techniques
of collage and frottage.
Since then, collage has been used by many other artists: like the Dutch abstract painter Piet Mondrian, the UK artist John Walker and the American Jane Frank (known for their canvas collages). Lee Krasner (1908-84), the wife of Jackson Pollock the inventor of “action painting”, also created collages assembled from pieces of her own discarded paintings. Neo-Dada artists including Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg also developed modern forms of collage and other mixed-media works.
El Archivo Fotográfico del Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza ofrece el servicio de venta y alquiler de material fotográfico de todas las obras de su Colección Permanente, así como de las obras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen- Bornemisza en depósito en el Museo Thyssen- Bornemisza.
In the early 1920s Kurt Schwitters, one of the leading Dada artists, became interested in the new Constructivist, abstract idioms. This new Soviet art, in particular that of El Lissitsky, in addition to Schwitters’ contact with members of the De Stijl Neo-plasticist group (whom he met during a period in Holland in 1923), are reflected in works such as the present Merzbild Kijkduin.
Artistic life in London had already been largely influenced by immigrant artists before the influx of the 1930s37. It must be stated that cultural life between the wars was distinguished by the division among intellectuals between Francophiles and Germanophiles. Writers on art such as Roger Fry and Anthony Blunt were Francophile, as were Nancy Cunard, or Roland Penrose and subsequently the British Surrealists; alternatively D.H. Lawrence, the poets W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender and young artists such as Francis Bacon who had been drawn to Berlin in the late 1920s were Germanophile, as were sections of the British aristocracy such as the Mosley family with their fascination for Hitler, and even, it is argued, King Edward VIII (who abdicated in 1936). German expressionism was nonetheless considered embarrassingly raw and ‘ugly’ by the British public who were exposed to ‘Twentieth Century German Art’ at the New Burlington Galleries in July 1938; London’s response to Hitler’s Munich exhibitions of ‘Degenerate art’ included major works by Max Beckman, Oscar Kokoshka’s Portrait of a Degenerate Artist, Schwitters’s construction The Golden Ear, 1935 and an undated collage, both from private collections in London.38 With the transfer of the Warburg Institute from Hamburg to London in 1933, German art history had transformed traditions of English conoisseurship and criticism; Ernst Gombrich was a Hampstead denizen – as indeed was Sigmund Freud from 1938 – and soon German and Austrian artists were well established amidst their English contemporaries’.39 In the Uhlmann’s house the refugee photomontage artist John Heartfield was a guest for seven years: the presence of Francis Klingender or Friedrich Antal gave a distinctly Marxist tone to their discussions.40 Despite the traditions of British liberalism, however, and propaganda exhibitions such as ‘Allies inside Nazi Germany’ (1942) which travelled throughout Britain as ‘We accuse, Ten Years of Hitler Fascism’ the following year, suspicions of the Jew, the Communist, the camouflaged Nazi, all affected perceptions of German refugees in exile – and Schwitters was no exception.
The Belgian Surrealist, E.L.T. Mesens, promoter of pre-war dada and Surrealism in England, was the proposed contact point and publisher. Schwitters had known him since the 1920s, and visited him after a trip to Blackpoolin July 1946, but Mesens was not keen on Pin. Finally penury and illness involving both collaborators – Schwitters with a broken leg between October and Christmas 1946 – put paid to the project. His proposal to sell the manuscripts to the Swedish collector Hjalmar Gabrielson came to nothing, and in mid-October Schwitters decided to withdraw his name from Pin.90 Paradoxically it would not be formal or intellectual defeat but sheer physical exhaustion on the part of the older generation which would allow Isou and the Lettrists to triumph in Paris. Nonetheless the debate about the origins of the poetry of the letter was regulated for posterity by Iliazd’s magnificent illustrated typographic production on parchment, Poésie des mots inconnus, 1949, which contained both Hausmann’s ‘ FMSBW ’ and Schwitter’s ‘Fury of Sneezing’ poem. The same year saw the publication in French in the review K of the ‘Scherzo’ of the ‘Ursonate’ (‘Sonate Présyllabique’).91