“generally acknowledged as the twentieth century’s greatest master of collage”
Kurt Schwitters invented the art form known as Merz (the art of everything). He pioneered collage, was an innovative graphic artist and typographer, performance artist and poet, as well as landscape and portrait painter. His use of recycled debris in his collage and sculptural installations was particularly antagonistic to the Nazis, with their championing of traditional art forms. Along with other “degenerates” his work was featured in mock exhibitions staged by the Nazis. He fled Germany, first to Norway and then, when Hitler invaded, caught the last fishing boat out of Scandinavia, survived a torpedo attack and landed in Scotland.
Like other “degenerate” artists, he became part of the movement that spread Modernism throughout the Western world. He died in 1948.
“I cannot make a living out of art and I now occupy myself with a variety of things. Of course, I continue to paint and to nail, but in particular I write grotesques and art reviews for newspapers, I organize evenings and draw commercial art for newspapers.” (1926)
“I know that I am an important factor in the development of art and shall forever remain so. I say this with great emphasis, so that one can not say, at a later date: ‘The poor fellow had no inkling of how important he was’. No I am no fool, nor am I timid. I know full well that the time will come for me and all other important personalities of the abstract movement, when we will influence an entire generation. However, I fear that I shall not experience this.” (1931)
“The medium is as unimportant as I myself. I take any material whatsoever if the picture demands it. When I adjust materials of different kinds to one another, I have taken a step in advance of mere oil painting, for in addition to playing off color against color, line against line, form against form etc., I play off material against material, wood against sack clothes.”
“Art is a spiritual function of man, which aims at freeing him from life’s chaos. Art is free in the use of its means in any way it likes, but is bound to its laws and to its laws alone.”