PRINT October 1969

The Last Work of Kurt Schwitters


A “HANKERING AFTER THE PRIMITIVE” is how Richard Huelsenbeck has described Schwitters’ work, a wish to get away from “the complicated, overcharged, perspectively seen present.”1 In the last years of his life, spent in the obscurity of the English Lake District, Kurt Schwitters found such an escape from the urban environment which had dominated his German work. His work had always been a kind of running autobiography; that part of it done outside Germany sees a significant attachment to nature which effects the creation of new and different species of objects. Chief of these is the Elterwater Merzbarn. We are here concerned principally with this last period of Schwitters’ life, from 1945 until his death early in 1948. During these years appears the culmination of his interests in natural phenomena and the extension of certain problems of picture-making beyond the Cubist bases of his earlier

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