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Kurt Schwitters

Biographies
Kurt Schwitters

*  1887 Hannover
† 1948 Ambleside/Westmorland


Kurt Schwitters was born in Hanover on July 20, 1887. He begins his studies at the Hanover School of Applied Arts in 1908 and changes to the Dresden Academy a year later, where he studies under C. Bantzer, G. Kuehl and J. Hegenbarth until 1914. Schwitters returns to Hanover in 1915. It was presumably in winter 1918-1919 that Schwitters made his first collages, in 1919 he works on assemblages in large formats using various materials. The word fragment "MERZ" is on one these works, a part of the glued-over name "Commerz- und Privatbank", which inspires Schwitters to call the picture "Merzbild" (Merz picture). In the following he makes more "Merzbilder", "Merzzeichnungen" (Merz drawings) and "Merzplastiken" (Merz sculptures). Schwitters transfers the name "Merz" to his entire dadaist art, this way he also wants to distinguish himself from Dada.
Kurt Schwitters comes in contact with Herwarth Walden in 1918 and exhibits in his "Sturm"-gallery in Berlin. He also publishes his "Merzdichtung" (Merz poetry) in the magazine of the same name as of 1919. Similar as in his collages, Schwitters uses word fragments, phrases, syllables and single letters for the sound poetry. The poem "An Anna Blume" is written in 1920. The "Ursonate" is regarded as the main work of his phonetic poetry, which he begins working on in 1921/22 but does not release before 1932.
As of 1918 Kurt Schwitters is in touch with the Zurich Dada artists, mainly Hans Arp and Tristan Tzara, but also with the Berlin artists around Richard Hülsenbeck. Schwitters, Raoul Hausmann and Hannah Höch go on a Dada-lecture tour to Prague in 1921. A year later he takes part in the Dada convention in Weimar and travels the Netherlands with Theo van Doesburg and his wife in 1922/23.
He begins working on his "Merzbau" (Merz building) in Hanover around 1923. Through rooms and from floor to floor Schwitters creates a steadily growing plastic made of wood, gypsum, paper, notes and various newspaper fragments. The "Merzbau" is destroyed in an air raid in 1943.
In 1927 Kurt Schwitters, Jan Tschichold, Willi Baumeister and other found the "Ring neuer Werbegestalter" (Circle of new Advertising Designers), who together work on a New Typography. As of 1929 Kurt Schwitters works in Karlsruhe as a typographer.
He goes on his first journey to Norway in 1930, whereto he will often return for his annual summer vacation. He is stigmatized as degenerate by the National Socialists in 1937, which is why he immigrates to Norway to live in Lysaker near Oslo where he also builds his second "Merzbau" which is destroyed in 1951.
Kurt Schwitters flees to Great Britain in 1940, living in Little Langdale near Ambleside (Westmorland), he starts his third "Merzbau" which will never be completed.
Kurt Schwitters dies in Ambleside on January 8, 1948.