SALE 0920 LOT 41 


German (1887-1948) 

"MERZ 149" 

collage, signed and dated lower right "K.S. 1920, 

titled "Mz 149"and inscribed lower left "Rwfn" 

6 1⁄2 x 4 3⁄4 inches 


Catalog Essay | September 17, 2020 | Lot 41

Born on June 20, 1887 in Hanover, Germany, Kurt Schwitters was an artist involved in both Dadaism and Constructivism. He attended the Kunstgewerbeschule in Hannover from 1908 to 1909 and from 1909 to 1914 studied at the Kunstakademie Dresden. 

After serving as a draftsman in the military in 1917, Schwitters experimented with Expressionist and Cubist styles. In 1918, he made his first collages and in 1919 invented the term “Merz,” which he described as "In the war, things were in terrible turmoil. What I had learned at the academy was of no use to me and the useful new ideas were still unready.... Everything had broken down and new things had to be made out of the fragments; and this is Merz. It was like a revolution within me, not as it was, but as it should have been.". [1] 

Schwitters is best known for his Merz works, which incorporate collage, found objects, typography, and sound poetry to construct unique compositions. “I could see no reason why used tram tickets, bits of driftwood, buttons and old junk from attics and rubbish heaps should not serve well as materials for paintings,” he observed. “It is possible to cry out using bits of old rubbish, and that’s what I did, gluing and nailing them together.” 

This year also marked the beginning of his friendships with Jean Arp and Raoul Hausmann. Schwitters’s earliest Merzbilder date from 1919, the year of his first exhibition at Der Sturm Gallery in Berlin, and the first publication of his writings in the periodical Der Sturm. Schwitters showed at the Société Anonyme in New York in 1920, the same year he completed the current example “Merz 149” offered here. 

Today, Schwitters’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Tate Gallery, London, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., among numerous others. 


[1] Dietrich, The Collages of Kurt Schwitters, (London: Cambridge University Press, 1993) p. 6-7.

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