↑ Kurt Schwitters, Merzbild 1B Bild mitt rotem Kreuz, 1919.
Sparebankstiftelsen DNB Collection. Permanent deposit to Henie Onstad Kunstsenter. Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen.
Experience the largest presentation of Kurt Schwitters’ works outside of Germany. Over 30 works by Schwitters from the DNB Savings Bank Foundation and Sprengel Museum Hannover are exhibited along with HOK’s own collection of Merz-magazines, poetry collections and artist books.
Kurt Schwitters (1887–1948) was one of the most innovative artists of the 20th Century. His creative diversity is evident in everything from collage, sound poetry, and architecture, to sculpture, painting, and typography.
Although Schwitters is often associated with Expressionism and Dadaism, in 1919 he also created his own artistic movement —Merz. For Schwitters, “to merz” was to abolish boundaries: between artistic disciplines, between the meaningful and the banal, between art and life. As he said himself: “Ideally, Merz creates connections between absolutely everything in this world.”
In 1937 Kurt Schwitters’ art was branded as “degenerate” by the Nazis. That same year he emigrated from Germany to Norway, a country his family had had a connection to for many years. When Norway was invaded in 1940, Schwitters fled again, to England, where he lived until his death in 1948.
The Kurt Schwitters Project
HOK’s exhibition Kurt Schwitters in Norway, on view in 2009, was the springboard for a major research project with three primary objectives: to establish a collection of works by Schwitters in Norway, to preserve his Merzhytte (Merz cabin) on Hjertøya (an island in the municipality of Molde), and to create a showcase for the artist’s works at HOK. The project is a collaboration between HOK, the DNB Savings Bank Foundation’s collection, and Romsdalsmuseet. The majority of the works in the Schwitters Gallery are on loan from the DNB Savings Bank Foundation’s collection.
The Merz Universe
A collage is a pictorial work made by combining diverse materials such as everyday or found objects. Schwitters was one of the first artists to make collage a significant focus within his artistic pursuits. His collages included, for example, trash such as tram tickets, torn-up candy wrappers, and bits of newspaper and he called them Merzbilder.
Kurt Schwitters began his career as a figurative painter, working continuously within the landscape and portrait genres. When his more experimental artworks were declared “degenerate,” he was compelled to return to figurative painting. The figurative works, many created when he was residing in Norway, comprise a substantive portion of Schwitters’ output and are well-integrated with the rest of his oeuvre.
Assemblage and sculpture
Similar to collage, assemblages are also made from diverse materials. But while a collage is two-dimensional, an assemblage has a three-dimensional structure and borders on the sculptural. Schwitters used objects he happened to come across, such as planks, stones, chains, plaster, and cardboard, in his assemblages. In several of them the distinction between painting and sculpture is virtually obliterated, and they strongly resemble the sculptures Schwitters made in the 1930s.
Kurt Schwitters was an innovator in many artistic disciplines, but it is his architectonic installations, his Merzbau, that have earned him a central place in 20th Century art history. Schwitters first Merzbau, which he built in his parents’ house in Hannover between 1923-1936, was an imaginative hybrid of architecture, sculpture, and pictorial art. In Norway he built a Merzbau in Lysaker, near Oslo, and a Merzbau construction inside his cabin on Hjertøya, an island in the municipality of Molde.
Literature and other printed matter
Kurt Schwitters wrote poetry, plays, art criticism, prose, and music, all of which were chiefly self-published in his journal, Merz, published in 21 editions between 1923 and 1932. As early as 1919 Schwitters was renowned throughout Germany for his absurd love poem, An Anna Blume, and his Ursonate, written between 1922-1932, is considered a classic work within sound poetry.