Schwitters in Germany
The word Merz denotes essentially the combination of all conceivable materials for artistic purposes, and technically the principle of equal evaluation of the individual materials…A perambulator wheel, wire-netting, string and cotton wool are factors having equal rights with paint.
Kurt Schwitters, 1919.
Schwitters had emerged as an important figure in the European avant-garde with his invention in 1919 of the radical concept Merz. The word was taken from an advert for the Kommerz- und Privat-Bank that he cut out and stuck on an early work. To explore his theory he used a wide range of everyday materials in collages, assemblages, sculptures and installations and staged performances of his sound poetry. The culmination of his work in Germany was the Merzbau, an architectural construction that encompassed several rooms of his house in Hanover.
Schwitters was associated with many European artistic centres. He was closely aligned with the Dadaists in Berlin, and in the mid 1920s he forged close links with the Dutch De Stijl movement and Russian constructivist artists. He was a member of international groups such as Abstraction-Création which counted British artists among its members. In the 1930s Schwitters’s work was shown in several London exhibitions including the Exhibition of Twentieth Century German Art, held in London in 1938 in a riposte to the Nazi’s Degenerate Art exhibition of the previous year.