Kurt Schwitters
Cherry Picture
Collage of colored papers, fabrics, printed labels and pictures, pieces of wood, etc., and gouache on cardboard background
36 1/8 x 27 3/4 in.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
©1999 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild Kunst, Bonn

On January 8, 1948 the painter, sculptor, and poet Kurt Schwitters, who had escaped to England on June 8, 1940, after being in exile in Norway, died at the age of sixty-one in great solitude near Ambleside. The man who had wanted to kill traditional and stuffy art by ridicule assured us that "everything that the artist spits out is art".
He had intended to spur on the emancipation of artists, by this provocative formula, implying by it that the materials of creation have little importance, because it is their imaginative arrangement that raises them to the rank of a work of art.

He used castoffs, which led to the compositions he called "Merz paintings", a name that came arbitrarily from separating the syllable "Merz" from the word "Kommerzbank", a bank whose mutilated billboard he could see from his home. This was how he discovered the collage, or montage, to which he then devoted himself almost to the point of obsession, filling his canvases with all sorts of objects he collected: old theater stubs, rusty nails, bits of wire, ant the like. He began elaborating the Merzbau in his house at Hanover, 1923, based on the same principle, and worked on it for ten years. The Merzbau acquired gigantic proportions before it was destroyed in an Allied air raid in 1943.

The Hannover Merzbau (1923 – 33)