Kurt Schwitters (June 20, 1887 Hanover, Germany – January 8, 1948 Kendal, England) was and artist, poet, and advertising artist. Schwitters was one of the most influential artists of the early 20th century.
After attending the Realgymnasium in Hanover, Kurt graduated from high school in 1908 and studied for a short time at the Kunstgewerbeschule Hannover. 1909 to 1914 Schwitters took courses at the Royal Saxon Academy of Arts in Dresden.
After graduation, Schwitters married Helma Fischer in 1915. For the military service in the First World War, he was drafted in March 1917 and released again in June due to the unstable health conditions (he suffered from epilepsy and was prone to depression). By November 1918 he was obliged to work as a technical draftsman in a steelworks.
In 1918 he met Herwarth Walden and had his first exhibition in his gallery “Der Sturm” in Berlin, after a shortened recapitulation of Cubism and Expressionism in 1919 the first “MERZ-Bild” showed. With Merz, Schwitters described his technique of creating newspaper excerpts, advertising and waste collages. As a counter-project to the rather destructive Dadaism, these pictures and sculptures, were to be a reconstruction.
At that time, he studied two semesters of architecture in Hanover.
Schwitters was something involved politically, for which reason he was rejeced from the Berlin Dadaist group.
Schwitters was certainly not admitted to the First International Dada Fair in Berlin in 1920. He worked with the Dadaist Hans Arp, Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch and Tristan Tzara. He was the initiator of the movement of Dada Hannover and opened his own MERZ series with a Dada number. In contrast to the Dadaists who rejected art, Schwitters saw his Merz art as an art.
But the last Dada-Soirée took place with Schwitters on 13th April 1923 in Friesian Drachten. He published the magazine Merz irregularly and worked as an advertising and utility photographer for the city of Hannover and the stationery manufacturer Pelikan.
In 1932 Schwitters joined the SPD.
When he was embarrassed by the Nazis as “degenerate”, he emigrated to Norway in January 1937, where he had already spent the summer months in the previous years. After the German invasion of Norway, he fled to England in 1940.
Since 1944, when he suffered a stroke after a severe flu, he had to deal with serious health problems. In 1946, he suffered a physical collapse and also suffered a thigh fracture. In 1948, Schwitters died of pulmonary edema and inflammation of the heart.