kurt schwitters collage art
Schwitters artistic breakthrough came in June 1919. An exhibition of his new Merz pictures at the influential Sturm gallery – founded by Herwarth Walden – caused a furore among the critics. The works projected a dynamic tension between abstraction and realism, aesthetics and trash, art and life. Schwitters’ use of colour, his delicate balance and interplay between content and form, all demonstrated his mastery of the collage genre. Suddenly, he found himself at the cutting edge of contemporary art and the full power of his imagination was unleashed. Mixing with a number of avant-garde groups, including Bauhaus design school teachers (Walter Gropius, Oskar Schlemmer, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and Lyonel Feininger), the emerging Constructivists from Russia, Eastern Europe and the Netherlands (Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, Theo van Doesburg), and various Dadaists, he organised performances with other artists such as Raoul Hausmann and Tristan Tzara, and held provocative recitals and lectures in cities across Europe. In 1921 he became friendly with Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931), the Dutch abstract painter, art theorist and founder of De Stijl, and the two artists toured Holland in the same year, promoting the Dada anti-art movement. He also explored a range of other art forms, such as drama and poetry, cabaret, printmaking, multimedia art, photography and architecture. In 1923 he launched his Merz journal, followed in 1924 by a successful advertising agency (1924-30).
Artworks by Kurt Schwitters
Hausmann’s anecdote about Schwitters asking to join Berlin Dada is, however, somewhat dubious, for there is well-documented evidence that Schwitters and Huelsenbeck were on amicable terms at first.  When they first met in 1919, Huelsenbeck was enthusiastic about Schwitters’s work and promised his assistance, while Schwitters reciprocated by finding an outlet for Huelsenbeck’s Dada publications. When Huelsenbeck visited him at the end of the year, Schwitters gave him a lithograph (which he kept all his life)  and though their friendship was by now strained, Huelsenbeck wrote him a conciliatory note. “You know I am well-disposed towards you. I think too that certain disagreements we have both noticed in our respective opinions should not be an impediment to our attack on the common enemy, the bourgeoisie and philistinism.”  It was not until mid-1920 that the two men fell out, either because of the success of Schwitters’s poem An Anna Blume (which Huelsenbeck considered unDadaistic) or because of quarrels about Schwitters’ contribution to Dadaco, a projected Dada atlas edited by Huelsenbeck. It is unlikely that Schwitters ever considered joining Berlin Dada, however, for he was under contract to Der Sturm, which offered far better long-term opportunities than Dada’s quarrelsome and erratic venture. If Schwitters contacted Dadaists at this time, it was generally because he was searching for opportunities to exhibit his work.
For the outside world he always tried to put up a good show, but in the quietness of the room I shared with him [. ], his painful disillusion was clearly revealed to me. [. ] Kurt Schwitters worked with more concentration than ever during internment to stave off bitterness and hopelessness. 
Directly affected by the depressed state of Germany following World War I, and the modernist ethos of the Dada movement, Kurt Schwitters began to collect garbage from the streets and incorporate it directly into his art work. The resulting collages were characterized by their especially harmonious, sentimental arrangements and their incorporation of printed media. He actively produced artistic journals, illustrated works, and advertisements, as well as founding his own Merz journal. He wrote poems and musical works that played with letters, lacing them together in unusual combinations, as he’d done in the collages, in the hope of encouraging his audience to find their own meanings. His multiple avant-garde efforts culminated in his large merzbau creations. These works, collaborations with other avant-garde artists, would start with one object to which others were added, causing the whole piece to change and evolve over time, growing to great proportions that forced the viewer to actually experience, rather than simply view, the art.
German Painter, Collagist, and Writer
While he engaged directly with many artists in the Dada movement, Kurt Schwitters devoted himself to the development of his own style that he labeled Merz. He adopted the name when he found a piece of an advertisement from the local bank or kommerz that contained only the last four letters.
Schwitters spent many of his last days working on what he called the “Merzbarn” in Elterwater, England. It was a recreation of the spirit of the destroyed Merzbau. To maintain his income, he was forced to paint portraits and landscape pictures that could be sold easily to residents and tourists. These show a heavy influence from his Post-Impressionist past. Kurt Schwitters died on January 8, 1948, from chronic heart and lung disease.
In 1918, his art was to change dramatically as a direct consequence of Germany’s economic, political, and military collapse at the end of the First World War.
Schwitters spent the last one-and-half years of the war working as a drafter in a factory just outside Hanover. He was conscripted into the 73rd Hanoverian Regiment in March 1917, but exempted on medical grounds in June of the same year. By his own account, his time as a draftsman influenced his later work, and inspired him to depict machines as metaphors of human activity.