Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Found papers. A bit of art history

Merzmalerei was the term the German artist Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) gave to his assemblages and collages. Merzmalerei - a wonderfully lautmalerisches word. Apologies: I'm too lazy for the dictionary: it's one of those words that is 'painting with sounds' - is expressive just by the sounds it makes.
Merzpaintings - its origins seem to lie in one of Schwitter's early found papers - the cut off of a Com-merz-bank notice.

Schwitters lived in Hanover - the shopping destination from where I grew up. And the nickname Hangover gives an indication what me and my friends thought about the city back then. So, I probably will have seen some of his collages on school trips to the local museum. But I will remember to make time to go and visit the Sprengel museum again next time I have some time.

Schwitters was loosely associated with the Dadaist movement, but living in provincial Hanover provide plenty of insulation from it all the same.

One of the collages which inspired my found papers project is this one:

Kurt Schwitters, Aerated viii
1942, found and prepared papers and oil on canvas
The Art Institute of Chicago

I also came across this wonderfully eccentric account of how teachers in the 1970s would introduce students to Schwitters's art of finding papers:

'Kurt Schwitters was a primly dressed man in white shirt with starched collar and dark suit who would ride his bicycle through Hanover; now and then he would stop to pick up a tram ticket and many a different thrown away bits and pieces from the gutters; he would wander through the woods and collect sticks; who would tear up newspapers and decorate postcard portraits with spectacles and moustaches; who would take barbed wire, oil filters and shoe polish and would glue everything into his paintings'

  • With this quote taken and translated from this website, go and have another look at the many Merzpaintings he made.
  • there is also the Schwitters foundation, here
  • and someone on Flickr collaged a hommage stamp to Schwitters. You want to see it? It's here
  • finally, here's a general google image search on Kurt Schwitters


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