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Merzoil
Photo credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Merzoil 1939

Kurt Schwitters (1887–1948)

Paintings Collection

(b Hanover, 20 June 1887; d Kendal, Westmorland [now Cumbria], 8 Jan. 1948). German painter, sculptor, maker of constructions, writer, and typographer, a leading figure of the Dada movement who is best known for his invention of ‘Merz’. Schwitters first applied this word to collages made from refuse, but he came to use it of all his activities, including poetry. He used the word as a verb as well as a noun: a fellow artist was once nonplussed when Schwitters asked him to merz with him. In his early work Schwitters was influenced by Expressionism and Cubism, but after the First World War (in which he served for a time as a draughtsman) he became the chief (indeed, virtually only) representative of Dada in Hanover. In 1918 he began making collages from refuse such as bus tickets, cigarette wrappers, and string, and in 1919 he invented Merz.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)


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