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

Mz 268 Hannover

Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)
Mz 268 Hannover
signed and dated 'K.Schwitters.1921.', inscribed and numbered 'Mz268 Hannover' (on the artist's mount); numbered 'Mz268' (on the artist's mount on the reverse)
collage on paper backed with newspaper collage and attached to the artist's window-mount
collage (recto): 7 1/8 x 5¾ in. (18 x 14.5 cm.)
collage (verso): 10 1/8 x 7 7/8 in. (25.8 x 20 cm.)
mount: 16¾ x 12 5/8 in. (42.5 x 32.2 cm.)
Executed in 1921
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Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming supplement to the Schwitters catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Dr Karin Orchard at the Kurt Schwitters Archiv, Sprengel Museum, Hannover, under no. 852b.

'Merz is a philosophy. Its essence is absolute uninhibitedness and impartiality... Merz means forging relationships, preferably between all things in the world.' (Kurt Schwitters cited in Friedheim Lach, Kurt Schwitters Das literarische Werk, vol 5, Cologne, 1973-81, p. 187)

Merz 268 is an early Merzbild from1921 and made at the height of the inflation years in Germany that followed the First World War and the November revolution of 1918. In an era of complete moral, political and financial bankruptcy when paper currency had lost its value and only food, work or lodging remained commodities of real value, other than gold and US dollars of course, Schwitters alone in Hannover established a one-man avant-garde and declared the Merz revolution. Merz, which took its name from a fragment of the words 'Kommerz und Privatbank' was a revolution in which art and life were to be merged through the 'business' of assembling fragments and detritus of modern life into new glorified forms and expressions of the triumph of the human spirit. As Schwitters' friend and neighbour in Hannover, Kate Steinitz recalled, at this time Schwitters was frequently to be seen on the streets of Hannover, 'a crazy, original genius-character, carelessly dressed, absorbed in his own thoughts, picking up all sorts of curious stuff in the streets... always getting down from his bike to pick up some colourful piece of paper that somebody had thrown away.' (Kate Trauman Steinitz, Kurt Schwitters A Portrait from Life, Berkeley, 1968, p. 68)

From these fragments Schwitters constructed poetic and miraculous constellations expressing a new formal language that spoke of a hidden order amongst the apparent chaos. With its bright angular forms and its very varied mixture of both printed and photographic scrap material, Merz 268 is one of the most intense rich and colourful of these early and most expressive Merzbilder.

'During the war everything was in a state of ferment,' Schwitters recalled, 'the abilities and skills which I had brought with me from the academy were of no use whatsoever, and all around me people were fighting about stupid things which I myself couldn't have cared less about...and then all of a sudden, the glorious revolution began. I don't think much of such revolutions, for people must be ready for them. It's like apples being shaken to the ground by the wind before they've time to ripen, such a shame. But it put an end to that enormous swindle which people call war. I quitted my job without notice and then things really got moving. The turmoil had only just begun. At last I felt free and I gave vent to my jubilation in a loud outburst. Not being wasteful, I took everything with me that I could find, for we were now an impoverished country. One can also shout with junk - and this I did, nailing and gluing it together.' (Kurt Schwitters cited in Friedheim Lach, Kurt Schwitters, Das literarische Werk, vol 5, Cologne, 1973-81, p. 335)

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