Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)
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Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)

Untitled (Ternationa)

Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)
Untitled (Ternationa)
signed with the initials and dated 'KS 42' (lower right)
collage on board
20.1/8 x 16 in. (51.1 x 40.6 cm.)
Executed in 1942
Ernst Schwitters, Lysaker, by descent from the artist in 1948, until 1962.
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London, by 1962.
Galerie Tarica, Paris, 1970s.
Private collection, Paris, by whom acquired from the above.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 2008.
Exh. cat., Kurt Schwitters, MERZ (1920), Gothenburg, 1962, no. 4 (illustrated p. 139).
K. Orchard & I. Schulz , eds., Kurt Schwitters, Catalogue raisonné, vol. III, 1937-1948, Hannover, 2006, no. 2956 (illustrated p. 390).
Stockholm, Konstsalongen Samlaren im Konstnärshuset, Kurt MERZ Schwitters (1887-1948), Retrospektivt, 1962-1964; this exhibition later travelled to Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst und Kunstforeningen, London, Marlborough Fine Art, Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum und Kölnischer Kunstverein, Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Milan, Toninelli Arte Moderna and Rome, Marlborough Galleria d'Arte.
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Modern Masters, Drawings and Watercolours, November - December 1966.
Høvikodden, Norway, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Schwitters in Norway, October 2009 - January 2010, p. 154.
Brühl, Max Ernst Museum, Kurt Schwitters & Ray Johnson: Merz & moticos, May - August 2011, p. 208 (illustrated).
Rodez, Muse´e Denys Puech, Kurt Schwitters & Ray Johnson: Merz & moticos, June - October 2012.
London, Tate Britain, Schwitters in Britain, January - May 2013, p. 156; this exhibition later travelled to Hannover, Sprengel Museum.

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Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas

Lot Essay

I can see from the work I am doing now, that in my old age I will be able to go on developing Merz. After my death it will be possible to distinguish 4 periods in my Merz works: the Sturm and Drang of the first works – in a sense revolutionary in the art world – then the dry, more scientific search for the new possibilities and the laws of the composition and materials, then the brilliant game with skills gained, that is to say, the present stage, and ultimately the utilization of acquired strengths in the intensification of expression. I will have achieved that in around ten years.’ (Kurt Schwitters, ‘Letter to Helma Schwitters’, 23 December 1939’, quoted in Schwitters in Britain exh. cat., London, 2013, p. 56).

Untitled (Ternationa) is a Merz-collage from Schwitters’ last years living as an exile in England. Executed in 1942, it belongs to a briefly joyous period for the artist when, recently liberated from an internment camp on the Isle of Man, Schwitters was living in London and attempting to re-establish himself amidst the avant-garde of the metropolis.

A letter to his wife Helma, written shortly before he fled Norway with his son Ernst in the wake of the Nazi invasion of the country in 1940, reveals that Schwitters considered his work of this period to be amongst his most accomplished, being what he called ‘a brilliant game with skills gained’. Untitled (Ternationa) was probably executed at the beginning of 1942 while Schwitters was living in Paddington. Elements of English daily life such as a Paddington laundry ticket and a label for raspberry jam are here dominated by colourful cuttings of an American magazine advert for the D-400 truck and another for the Chrysler Corporation.

As if by way of a seal or signature for this American or ‘international’ theme of the work, which incidentally also includes the handwritten word ‘England’, Schwitters, who was a habitual noticer of dates, anniversaries and numerical coincidences, has included a post-mark from a letter sent to him from Flushing, New York. This probably came from his old friend and former neighbour in Hannover Käte Steinitz, who had moved to New York in the ‘1930s and regularly corresponded with Schwitters. Anticipating the international advent of ‘Pop’ art, upon which his own example was to have such an influence, particularly in Britain, Untitled (Ternationa) can be considered a rare and auspicious, transatlantic Merzbild.

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