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Kurt Schwitters

Kurt Schwitters

Kurt Schwitters, London, 1944

Kurt Schwitters

Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) was among a first wave of artists who closed the gap between nineteenth-century academic art and modern ideas, though he did not begin his career as a modern artist. Instead, Schwitters first attended Dresden Kunstakademie where he studied academic art. This was during the time leading up to the first World War (1909-1914), but after the war, like so many artists who experienced the destruction first-hand, Schwitters began to feel as though he could no longer find security in traditional means of creating art. Needing a new method that held relevance in the modern age, he began experimenting with increasingly emotive subjects, and adopted stylistic elements from Expressionism. In 1918-1919, Schwitters’ work began to resemble those by of the Berlin Dadaists. Finally, in 1919, Schwitters’ adopted the term Merz to describe his practice. As Elizabeth Burns Gamard notes in her book Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau: The Cathedral of Erotic Misery, Schwitters' work was "not successive, one replacing the other, but rather incorporative.” Schwitters did not see his years of experimenting in diverse styles as a process of trial and replacement. Instead, he integrated these styles and ideas into his own Merz.