To write this post I had to do a bit of research, and had to quote a few passages to define a few concepts that where a bit tricky for me. I had to do this in order to understand his work and at the end I’ve learned a lot about several movements.
Kurt Schwitters (1887 – 1948) was a german painter, sculptor, writer and worked with typography as well. His work is very hard to define and delimit, since he worked with so many materials and within so many movements, or was inspired by: constructivism, cubism, expressionism, futurism, dadaism…its somewhat confusing.
He was born in Germany, but escaped to Norway due to the nazi regime dislike of his work. After Norway invasion he moved to the UK, where he died.
“In the war, things were in terrible turmoil. What I had learned at the academy was of no use to me and the useful new ideas were still unready…. Everything had broken down and new things had to be made out of the fragments; and this is Merz. It was like a revolution within me, not as it was, but as it should have been.”. – Kurt Schwitters, (source: Design is History)
I see his collage works as belonging to dadaism, but very linked to cubism in its aesthetics when compared with other collages from the same movement.
I had to research the movements he was involved, because although I’ve studied it before, its always good to refresh!
Heres a brief description of art movements:
Cubism: Invented in 1907/08 by Picasso and Braque. Had as his goals to break down objects into geometric shapes, cubs, and to represent them as 2D “beings”. The illusion of dept created in the oil canvas before, is now abandoned. Its inspired by Cézanne latest work and African masks.
“Cubism opened up almost infinite new possibilities for the treatment of visual reality in art and was the starting point for many later abstract styles including constructivism and neo-plasticism“. –Tate Modern
Dadaism: This Movement started in Zurich during the IWW, as a reaction to it. The war instability placed society and art in a place of study and artists started to question essential aspects of their lives. The aim of this movement is to question the traditional values, destroy them and to create a new kind of art. These people were somewhat aligned with the left political sphere.
Following his experiences in the First World War, Schwitters decided to create something new from the rubble of the old world and henceforth concentrated on collages: ‘You can also shout with items from rubbish heaps, and that is what I did, by pasting and nailing them together’… In the hands of Schwitters, Hannah Hoch, George Grosz, John Heartfield and the other dadaists disparate materials from all sorts of sources retain their own identity and are combined to create an entirely new self-sufficient composition. Collage and montage become groundbreaking, structural concepts in modernism – Karin Orchard about 2013 exhibition on Schitter’s work. – Tate Modern
Now some of Kurt Schwitters work: