Schwitters in Britain, London

Schwitters in Britain, London

Tate Britain open a new show on Kurt Schwitters (1887 – 1948), running from 30 January until 12 May. As the first exhibition to examine the lat work of Schwitters, one of the major artists of European Modernism, the show focuses on his work in Britain which began in 1940 when he arrived as a refugee until his death eight years later. Forced to flee Germany when his work was condemned as “degenerate” by the Nazi government, Schwitters in Britain includes over 150 collages, assemblages and sculptures.

Schwitters invented the European Dada concept of Merz: “the combination, for artistic purposes of all conceivable materials”. Taking string, cotton, wool or random objects (a pram wheel for example) to create his works, Schwitters treated them as equal with paint, producing striking and unique collages. The artist is best known for his pioneering use of found objects and everyday materials in his abstract collages, installations, poems and performances. Influencing the works of Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Paolozzi and Damien Hirst, Schwitters still holds a significant place in British art today.

Escaping from Germany, Schwitters travelled through Norway, Scotland, the Isle of Man and eventually arrived in London in 1941 where he immediately engaged with the London art scene. He engaged with artists and critics such as Ben Nicholson and Herbert Read (Read described him as “the supreme master of the collage”). This exhibition focuses on Schwitters’ unique concept of Merz in the make up of Merz Picture 46 A and his interesting relationship with Britain in his Untitled (This is to Certify That) 1942. Also including a group of works that appeared in his 1944 London solo show at The Modern Art Gallery, featuring the important assemblage Anything with a Stone 1941-1944, Schwitters in Britain explores the artist’s distinctive practice and experience of Britain.

Schwitters in Britain, 30 January until 12 May, Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG.

1. Kurt Schwitters, Merz Picture 46 A. The Skittle Picture 1921 , Sprengel Museum Hannover / DACS 2012.
2. Kurt Schwitters, doremifasolasido c.1930, Private collection.
3. Kurt Schwitters, Untitled (Relief within Relief) 1942/1945, Tate.
4. Untitled (Quality Street) 1943, Kurt und Ernst Schwitters Stiftung, Hannover, Sprengel Museum Hannover and DACS 2012.