Kurt Schwitters Tate exhibition banner

The Merz Barn

In every place Schwitters settled he made large-scale sculptural works, constructed from plaster and found objects. These filled entire rooms and created an immersive environment for the viewer. In Germany he built the Merzbau, and in Norway he had begun constructing new Merz buildings in Lysaker and Hjertøya, but had been forced to abandon them when he fled the German invasion in 1940.

In 1944 he learned that the Hanover Merzbau had been damaged by bombing. By 1947 it became clear that his plans to salvage elements of it were unrealistic, and, with funding through the Museum of Modern Art, New York, he turned his energies to constructing a new Merz building in the Lake District.

In a disused building on the Cylinders estate in Elterwater he began to make a biomorphic abstract plaster relief structure which extended from an interior stone wall. In it he embedded objects such as twigs, stones and the rim of a cartwheel. He intended to extend the structure to the whole of the interior, but was only able to complete one relief wall before his death, just six months after starting work.

The slides shown here were taken during a survey of the wall by Richard Hamilton and his students before it was moved to the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle in 1965.