Kurt Schwitters (1887 - 1948)

He said knowingly

"The ambition was Expressionist, the means Constructivist, the results - largly Dadaist"

Kurt Schwitters was born in Hannover in 1887, the son of a well off boutique owner. His families borgeois standing was strenthened by his fathers miserly conduct - a trait inherited by Kurt who proudly never spent a penny on his wife's clothes.
From 1909-14 he attended the Dresden art school where he began his artistic career painting slavishly naturalistic pictures. His academic work was conventional and unadventurous although he did write a dissertation on abstract art (now lost).
In later life Schwitters put his artistic development into handy, discreet, pocket sized catagories:-
1909-14 - Academic Painting
1914-17 - Impressionism
1917 - Expressionism
1917-18 - Abstraction
1918 -48 - Merz

Kurt Schwitters was the odd man out of Dada - not officially a dadaist but still vital to the dada movement. In 1918 he made visits to Berlin where he became friends with Arp and Hausmann. Then one night in a cafe he approached Tristan Tzara and
Hans Richter.

:Without his pants

"My name is Kurt Schwitters...I am a painter and I nail my pictures together...I should like to join the Club Dada"
Berlin Dada revolved around the powerful figure of Richard Huelsenbeck , who saw Dada as a political weapon - Schwitters had little time for politics, he was more interested in art. Due to this Huelsenbeck refused Schwitters entry to Club Dada, saying that his face was too borgeois to be a Dadaist.
To irritate Huelsenbeck as much as anything, Schwitters set up his own 'one man Dada movement' in Hannover and called it MERZ. To look at Dada and Merz are very similar but there are some fundamental differences. Put simply :
Dada is miserable - Merz is happy
As Hans Richter says :- "Schwitters was absolutely, unreservedly, 24 hours a day PRO-Art. His genius had no time for transforming the world...There was no talk of the 'death of art' or 'non-art' or 'anti-art' with him. On the contrary, every tram ticket, every envelope, cheese wrapper or cigar band, together with old shoe soles or laces, wire, feathers, dishcloths - everything that had been thrown away - all this he loved and restored to an honoured place in life through his art"

The more Merz progressed the more it differed from Dada, It became an organic art, Merz began as a style of painting and collage, it then covered Schwitters poetry and plays, finally Merz encompassed Schwitters himself - "Schwitters was the complete work of art".

Credit for this page goes to: mailto:T.J.Church@ex.ac.uk
Visit His Dada Page At:  http://www.ex.ac.uk/drama/dada/index.html