Kurt Schwitters

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Acknowledged as the 20th century’s greatest master of collages, Kurt Schwitters was also a painter, writer, sculptor and typographer. Heavily influenced by Expressionism and Cubism, Schwitters ended up forming his own form of Dada art movement called the ‘Merz.’ Merz was basically a combination of rubbish items such as labels, coupons, bus tickets, and bits of broken wood which Schwitters used for his collages. Schwitters also had a reputation for being a bit of a maverick in the 20th century, despite being part of the Dada art movement he never truly fit in there and clashed with other artists in the group. His utter lack of interest in the politics of that era also made him a recluse during those times, he also never fully committed to any particular art movement. In his free time Schwitters also experimented with poetry and performance, yet his one true love always remained his collages.

Kurt Hermann Eduard Karl Julius Schwitters was born in 1887 in Hanover, Germany. The only child of well established parents, Schwitters was a bit of lover from his youth. He was plagued with poor health which was riddled in epileptic attacks which installed in him a deep sense of insecurity and low self confidence. Despite developing a liking for art, it took Schwitters a few years to gain enough confidence to take it on fully as a profession. Soon Schwitters began to make collages from any scraps of refuse he could get his hands on; it became his calling in many ways. Schwitters first proper collage came out in 1920 and was titled Merz Red Bonbon. The collage consisted of stamps, coins, wood pieces and paper all heavily laden with paint to make a powerful impact.  Schwitters went the distance to include thread and glue into the collage, it may seem bizarre but the result was marvellous as it is this work which put Schwitters on the map as a great artist. Today the Merz Red Bonbon can be found at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, along with many others of Schwitters works. For Schwitters it wasn’t always about collages though, he also worked in numerous paintings. Though they didn’t have the same impact as his collages they were just as mesmerizing. His Mountain Graveyard is considered by many art experts as a masterpiece. Despite being a painting, Schwitters has still used elements of his collages in it – namely the glue and scraps of very tiny paper. The painting is a depiction of a graveyard set top on a mountain, to give the grave haunting look of the graveyard Schwitters has worked with bold and dark colors which give the painting its own personality.

Despite not belonging to any political party and steering clear of politics in general Schwitters art was seen as a threat to the traditional German values. Surprisingly many people started calling Schwitters as unpatriotic and a stain on the German artistic integrity. He was thrust deep into a place which he was trying to avoid all along.  However this never deterred, despite the hurdles Schwitters stuck close to his principles and even became a leading typographer of his time, he eventually founded the successful advertising agency Merz Werbe. Many greats who graced the art world after Kurt Schwitters acknowledge his influence in the development of Pop Art, these include Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake and Eduardo Paolozzi. Even today his influence in art, sculpting, and architecture is widely admired and practised.

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