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

Untitled (It's terrific!)

Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)
Untitled (It's terrific!)
signed with initials and dated 'KS 44' (centre left)
collage on leather-bound book cover
12 3/8 x 21 in. (31.5 x 53.5 cm.)
Executed in 1944
The London Gallery, London, by 1950.
Allan Frumkin Gallery, Chicago.
Private collection, United States, by whom acquired from the above, on 3 December 1953, and thence by descent; sale, Christie's, New York, 8 November 2012, lot 202.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
K. Orchard & I. Schulz, eds., Kurt Schwitters, Catalogue raisonné, vol. III, 1937-1948, Hannover, 2006, no. 3091, p. 438.
London, The London Gallery, E.L.T. Mesens Presents: An Hommage to Kurt Schwitters (1887-1947), April - May 1950, no. 25, n.p..

Brought to you by

Eliza Heneage
Eliza Heneage

Lot Essay

Dr. Karin Orchard and Dr. Isabel Schulz, editors of the Kurt Schwitters catalogue raisonné, have confirmed that this work is authentic and that it corresponds to no. 3091 currently listed in volume III of the catalogue raisonné.

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’ (Schwitters, ‘Letter to Helma Schwitters’, 23 December 1939’ quoted in Schwitters in Britain, exh. cat., London, 2013, p. 56).

Untitled (It's terrific!) is a comparatively large Merz-collage made over the hardcover binding of a book that Kurt Schwitters made while living in exile in England during the last years of his life. Executed in 1944, it belongs to the period in which Schwitters was living with Edith Thomas (‘Wantee’) in Barnes in London and attempting to integrate himself with the avant-garde of the city during the harsh years of the war. It was in December of 1944 that Schwitters, with the help of Herbert Read was to hold his sole one-man-show in England, at the Modern Art Gallery.
At this exhibition Read announced Schwitters as ‘the supreme master of the collage’, pointing out that the artist had devolved a practice of ‘making art out of anything’ by ‘taking up the stones which the builders had rejected and making something of them’. ‘I doubt’, Read continued, ‘if Schwitters would like to be called a mystic, but there is nevertheless in his whole attitude to art a deep protest against the chromium-plated conception of modernism. The bourgeois loves slickness and polish: Schwitters hates them. He leaves the edges rough, his surfaces uneven’ (H. Read, ‘Kurt Schwitters’, Paintings and Sculptures of Kurt Schwitters (The Founder of Dadaism and “Merz”) exh. cat., London, 1944, n.p.).
Anticipating the techniques of Pop Art, which English artists such as Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi were soon to develop, Untitled (It's terrific!) is a convocation of war-time English advertising phrases, images and posters taken from newspapers and popular magazines and reassembled into a work that is part picture, part nonsense poem. Its sentiments, for the main part, invoke food. Sentences such as ‘Kurt Schwitters in Gravy goes wild’, ‘Raspberry Arch’, and ‘You are cordially invited to a fish dinner, iodised’, can be read across this almost décollage-style Merz-collage.

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