Tuesday, 12 January 2010


Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) was a German painter, installation artist and composer.
One of his most important art works was the Merzbau, an uncompleted and ever-growing project, which involved the consistent alteration of a series of interior spaces. The starting point of the work was Schwitters' studio in his house at No. 5 Waldhausenstrasse in Hannover. Work started in about 1923, the first room was finished in 1933 and Schwitters subsequently extended the Merzbau to other areas of the house until he fled to Norway in 1937. By then it had spread to two rooms of his parents' apartment on ground floor, the adjoining balcony, the space below the balcony, one or two rooms of the attic and possibly part of the cellar. Among the Souvenirs of friends and other things of sentimental value were stored in niches and later walled in. This idiosyncratic, abstract, created environment was completed by grottoes for Hans Arp and Theo van Doesburg, two caves for Hannah Höch, a cave for Lissitzky and one for Mies van der Rohe, as well as grottoes dedicated to abstract ideas, e.g. a Goethe Grotto or a Murderers' Cave. In 1943 it was destroyed in a bombing raid.
Schwitters later created a similar environment in the garden of his house near Oslo. This was almost complete when Schwitters left Norway for England in 1940. It burnt down in 1951 and no photos survive. The last Merzbau, in Cumbria, England, remained incomplete on Schwitters' death in 1948. A further environment that also served as living space can still be seen on the island of Hjertoya in Norway.

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