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 Schwitters In Britain, Tate Britain,Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Paolozzi and Damien Hirst
Tate Prepares For The Launch of  Schwitters In Britain Exhibition - ArtLyst Article image

Tate Prepares For The Launch of Schwitters In Britain Exhibition

22-01-2013
 
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Kurt Schwitters was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, inspiring a generation of younger artist's in the UK. Now the first major exhibition to examine his late work in context to the rise of European Modernism. The exhibition Schwitters in Britain focuses on his UK period, from his arrival in Britain as a refugee in 1940 until his death in Cumbria in 1948. Schwitters was forced to flee Germany when his work was condemned as ‘degenerate’ by Germany’s Nazi government and the show traces the impact of exile on his work. It includes over 150 collages, assemblages and sculptures many shown in the UK for the first time in over 30 years.

Schwitters was a significant figure in European Dadaism who invented the concept of Merz – ‘the combination, for artistic purposes of all conceivable materials’. Whether those materials were string, cotton wool or a pram wheel, Schwitters considered them to be equal with paint. He is best known for his pioneering use of found objects and everyday materials in abstract collage, installation, poetry and performance. Schwitters’s time in Britain was quite extraordinary and continues to reverberate today, with the influence he has exerted over artists such as Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Paolozzi and Damien Hirst.

Schwitters’s escape from Germany took him first to Norway, where he boarded the last ship to leave the country before Nazi occupation. On arrival at the Scottish port of Leith, he was detained as an enemy alien. He was one of many German exiles, including a significant number of artists, who were interned on the Isle of Man during World War Two. In the camp he participated in group exhibitions and gave poetry performances. On release in 1941 he became involved with the London art scene, engaging with British artists and critics such as Ben Nicholson and Herbert Read. The latter described him as ‘the supreme master of the collage’.

Exhibition highlights include an early example of Schwitters’s unique concept of Merz in the assemblage Merz Picture 46 A. The Skittle Picture 1921, the sculpture Untitled (Birchwood Sculpture) 1940 carved on his journey to Britain, and his collaged travelling trunk. Schwitters’s collages often incorporated fragments from packaging and newspapers reflecting British life such as the London bus tickets and Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts wrappers used in Untitled (This is to Certify That) 1942. The exhibition reunites a group of works shown in his 1944 London solo show at The Modern Art Gallery including the important assemblage Anything with a Stone 1941–4.

In 1945 Schwitters relocated to the Lake District. Inspired by the rural Cumbrian landscape, he began to incorporate natural objects into his work, as shown in a group of small sculptures including Untitled (Opening Blossom) 1942– 5 which he considered to be among his finest British pieces. The move also culminated in the creation of his last great sculpture and installation, the Merz Barn, a continuation of the Hanover Merzbau; an architectural construction considered to be one of the key lost works of European modernism. The exhibition concludes with an exploration of Schwitters’s lasting legacy through commissions by artists Adam Chodzko and Laure Prouvost made in collaboration with Grizedale Arts.

Schwitters in Britain is curated by Emma Chambers, Curator: Modern British Art, Tate Britain and Karin Orchard, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Sprengel Museum Hannover. The exhibition is organised by Tate Britain and the Sprengel Museum Hannover in cooperation with the Kurt und Ernst Schwitters Stiftung, Hannover. It will tour to the Sprengel Museum Hannover from 2 June to 25 August 2013.

Kurt Schwitters 1887-1948 German painter, sculptor, typographer and writer. Born in Hanover. Studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Hanover 1908-9 and at Dresden Academy 1909-14. Influenced by Expressionism and Cubism 1917-18. In 1918 created his own form of Dada in Hanover called 'Merz', using rubbish materials such as labels, bus tickets and bits of broken wood in his collages and constructions. Friendship with Arp, Hausmann and van Doesburg. Published the first edition of Anna Blume (a collection of poems and prose pieces) in 1919 and the magazine Merz 1923-32. First one-man exhibition at the Galerie Der Sturm, Berlin, 1920. Began in 1923 to build fantastic Merz constructions in his house in Hanover (the first 'Merzbau'). Spent the summers in Norway from 1931 and emigrated in 1937 to Lysaker near Oslo. Fled to England in 1940, spent seventeen months in internment camps, then lived 1941-5 in London. Moved in 1945 to Ambleside in the Lake District. In the last months of his life, he began a further Merz construction in an old barn at Langdale. Died at Kendal.

Schwitters In Britain 30 January - 9 May 2013 Tate Britain

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