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Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)
Beyond Boundaries: Avant-Garde Masterworks from a European Collection
Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)


Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)
signed with initials and dated 'KS 45' (lower center)
wood, plastic, glass, metal, fabric and newsprint assemblage and oil on panel
23 ¾ x 19 ¾ in. (60.3 x 50.3 cm.) (oval)
Executed in 1945
Ernst Schwitters, Lysaker, Norway (son of the artist).
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London (acquired from the above, 1963).
Galerie Tarica, Paris (acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, 1971.
K. Orchard and I. Schulz, eds., Kurt Schwitters, Catalogue Raisonné, 1937-1948, Bonn, 2006, vol. 3, p. 454, no. 3135 (illustrated).
Stockholm, Konstsalongen Samlaren; Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum; Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen and Milan, Toninelli Arte Moderna, Kurt MERZ Schwitters, Retrospektivt, 1962-1964, no. 181 (Stockholm), no. 254 (Cologne and Rotterdam) and no. 102 (Milan).

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

Executed in 1945 while Schwitters was living in exile in England, Ohne Titel (ORLD’S RAREST AND MOTHS) is one of the largest examples of the artist's late work. It marks a highpoint of a flowering period of creativity when, living under difficult circumstances, Schwitters began to work with a renewed vigor.
Schwitters’ Merzbilder were revolutionary and utopian works in the sense that their aim was the complete transformation of the entire world into a creative resource and through that transformation, the turning of life itself into an aesthetic act. It is tempting to contemplate the significance of the newspaper headline “ORLD’S RAREST AND MOTHS” which is pasted in the center of this piece, however Schwitters maintained that the Merzbilder were always “self-contained” and referred “to nothing outside of” themselves. Schwitters thus withdraws all significance from the news headline and transforms it into a small part of a whole—a simple element of the larger collage/assemblage. The partial news headline, outside of the context of a newspaper, thus loses its ability to link the reader/viewer to life, instead drawing him even further into the artwork. A “consistent work of art,” Schwitters argued, "can never refer to anything outside of itself without loosening its ties to art” (quoted in W. Schmalenbach, Kurt Schwitters, Cologne, 1967, p. 97). The Merzbilder were a new visual form of poetry, and as in poetry, “words and sentences are nothing but parts. Their relation to one another is not the customary one of everyday speech, which after all has a different purpose: to express something. In poetry, words are torn from their former context, dissociated and brought into a new artistic context, they become formal parts of the poem, nothing more” (quoted in J. Elderfield, Kurt Schwitters, New York, 1985, p. 43).
Ultimately, in a Merzbild, Schwitters explained, the “material matters as little as I do myself. What matters is forming it. Since the material does not matter, I take whatever material I like, if the picture requires it. Because I balance different kinds of material against one another, I have an advantage over oil painting, for in addition to evaluating colour against colour, line against line, form against form, and so on, I also evaluate material against material—wood as opposed to burlap, for example…’’ (“Merz,” Der Ararat, 1921, reproduced in R. Motherwell, The Dada Painters and Poets, London, 1989, pp. 55-65). Merz, in this way, comes to stand ultimately for “freedom from all fetters, for the sake of artistic creation. Freedom is not lack of restraint, but the product of strict artistic discipline” (quoted in W. Schmalenbach, op. cit., p. 78).

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