London exhibitions and performances

Schwitters was one of many refugee artists who contributed to a dialogue between British and European art in London’s galleries in the 1930s and 1940s. In addition to maintaining links with former internees and establishing new friendships with fellow émigrés such as filmmaker Stefan Themerson and gallery owner Jack Bilbo, Schwitters also began to make connections in British avant-garde art circles. Using his old friends E.L.T. Mesens and Naum Gabo to make introductions, he formed links with British artists and critics such as Ben Nicholson and Herbert Read and was included in important group exhibitions.

Schwitters showed work alongside the major British abstract and surrealist artists in the 1942 touring exhibition New Movements in Art. His only solo show in London was held at the Modern Art Gallery in December 1944. Herbert Read wrote the introduction to the catalogue describing Schwitters as ‘the supreme master of the collage’. At the opening of this exhibition Schwitters performed some of his poems including an extract from his most famous work, the Ursonate. But despite some critical recognition Schwitters found it difficult to make a living from his art and relied on support from friends and family during his years in London.