Kurt Schwitters (June 20, 1887 – January 8, 1948) was a German painter and played an important role in Dada. He worked in several genres and media, including Dadaism, Constructivism, Surrealism, poetry, sound, painting, collage, sculpture, typography and what came to be known as installation art.
Quotes of Kurt Schwitters
- Merz art strives for immediate expression by shortening the path from intuition to visual manifestation of the artwork... they will receive my new work als they always have when something new presents itself: with indignation and screams of scorn.
- ‘Merz Painting’ (1919); as quoted in “I is Style”, ed. Siegfried Gohr & Gunda Luyken, commissioned by Rudi Fuchs, director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, NAI Publishers, Rotterdam 2000, p. 91.
- We, the founders of Dada-movement try to give time its own reflection in the mirror.
- first edition of journal Merz, 1923.
- The medium is as unimportant as I myself. Essential is only the forming... 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.
- Schwitters (1921) in: Abstract Art, Anna Moszynska, Thames and Hudson, London 1990, p. 68/69.
- 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. The minute it becomes art, it becomes much more sublime than a class distinction between proletariat and bourgeoisie.
- Manifesto Proletkult, 1923
- Schwitters in discussion with the political Dadaists as Huelsenbeck.
- Consistent poetry is made of letters. Letters have no idea. Letters as such have no sound, they offer only tonal possibilities, to be valuated by the performer. The consistent poem weighs the value of both letters and groups.
- 'Consistent Poetry Art' Schwitters contribution to ‘Magazine G’, No. 3, 1924, ed. by Hans Richter; as quoted in “I is Style”, ed. Siegfried Gohr & Gunda Luyken, commissioned by Rudi Fuchs, director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, NAI Publishers, Rotterdam 2000, p. 151.
- 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 ate: ‘The poor fellow had no inkling of how important he was’. Nom 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.
- ‘I and my purpose’ in Merz, no. 21, 1931; as quoted in ‘Introduction’ of the catalogue of Schwitters one-man show at the Marlborough Gallery,London March-April 1963.
- In Hanover I built, before Hitler’s time, a studio called Merzbau. This has been reproduced very much, also in the book Dada, Surrealism, Fantastic Art of the Museum of Modern Art NY. I would like to go to Germany for restoring the Merzbau... Could I come with you to an agreement that you give me for this purpose some money? For example that I give you some pictures for the money ansd use it for restoring the studio... Or would you prefer that you own with me half and half...
- a letter to Oliver Kaufmann, (department of Paiting and Sculpture of the Moma New York), 30 April 1946; as quoted in “I is Style”, ed. Siegfried Gohr & Gunda Luyken, commissioned by Rudi Fuchs, director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, NAI Publishers, Rotterdam 2000, p. 48.
- When I was born 20.6.(18)87, I was influenced by Picasso to cry. When I could walk and speak I still stood under Picasso’s influence and said to my mother: ‘Tom’ or ‘Happening’ meaning the entrances of the canal under the street. My lyrical time was when I lived in the Violet Street. I never saw a violet. That was my influenced by Matisse because when he painted rose I did not paint violet. As a boy of ten I stood under Mondrian’s influence and built little houses with little bricks. Afterwards I stood under the influence of the Surrealists... In never stood under the influence of Dadaism because whereas the Dadaist created Spiegeldadaismus on the Zurich Lake, I created MERZ on the Leineriver, under the influence of Rembrandt. Time went on, and when Hans Arp made concrete Art, I stayed Abstract. Now I do concrete Art, and Marcel Duchamp went over to the Surrealists... and at all I have much fun about Art.
- ‘My art and My live (1940 – 1946); as quoted in “I is Style”, ed. Siegfried Gohr & Gunda Luyken, commissioned by Rudi Fuchs, director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, NAI Publishers, Rotterdam 2000, p. 100.
Attributed from posthumous publications
- My name is Schwitters, Kurt Schwitters…. …I’m a painter and I nail my pictures… …I’d like to be accepted into the Dada Club
- ‘Hannover-Dada’, Hans Richter, after 1948; as quoted in “I is Style”, ed. Siegfried Gohr & Gunda Luyken, commissioned by Rudi Fuchs, director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, NAI Publishers, Rotterdam 2000, p. 151. Schwitters is introducing himself to the Dadaist Hans Richter in Zurich, about 1920, fh.
Quotes about Kurt Schwitters
- Whatever became of Kurt Schwitters' novel "Franz Müllers Drahtfrühling" [Franz Müller's Wire Spring] several chapters of which we composed together? Is it buried under the bomb ruins of his house on Waldhausenstrasse in Hannover? For hours, Schwitters and I sat together and spun dialogue, in rhapsody. He took these writings and channelled them into his novel... We sat together again, writing "Franz Müllers Drahtfrühling":
- H. A.: The nightingales have had enough of your hymnal Karagösen. Play violin on parrots, but avoid the women red hood ans snow widow.
- K. Schw.: Should I pe-trify something for you? Or would you like play cry together?
- H. A.: Should we wash our tears or drown them?
- K. Schw.: You are a sipsnipper, Since when do your diamonds bark?
- H. A.: The water is getting hard. A fruit cries out loud and gives birth to a fish.
- K. Schw.: I'll p-ut it in the sea, or should I st-ab you wth it?
- Then we went down to his work room, in the horrible beautiful Merz grotto (Merz-Haus, built by Schwitters), where broken wheels paired with matchboxes, wire lattices with brushes without bristles, rusted wheels with curious Merz cucumbers.. ..How often did we ‘p-lay’ in this room! Schwitters called playing, considering the sweat, working. There we glued together our paper pictures, and as I tossed away one of my glued-together works one morning, Schwitters asked, ‘You don’t like it? Can I have it?’ – ‘What do you want with this failed piece of toast?’ Schwitters took a good look at it and said, ‘I’ll put what’s on top on the bottom, I’ll stick a little Merz nose in this corner and I’ll sign the bottom Kurt Schwitters.’ And, yes indeed, this collage became a wonderful picture by Kurt Schwitters. Schwitters was a wizard, just as Hokusai was a wizard.
- Hans Arp, his quote from 'Franz Müllers Drahtfrühling – Memories of Kurt Schwitters'’ Hans Arp 1956; as quoted in I is Style, ed. Siegfried Gohr & Gunda Luyken - commissioned by Rudi Fuchs, director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam - NAI Publishers, Rotterdam 2000, pp. 140-141
- It needs a poet like Schwitters to show us that unobserved elements of beauty are strewn and spread all around us and we can find them everywhere in the portentous as well as in the insignificant, if only we care to look, to choose and to fit them into a comely order.
- One of my first sculptures was made of bicycle parts. I was living at that time in a attic in the red light section of Amsterdam. I started to work without any specific materials. I was looking in the street, like when I was a young boy, in the garbage cans, for ropes, wires, and paint. I left my parents in 1940. Years later I saw an exhibition of Kurt Schwitters at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam curated by Willem Sandberg and there I saw the real 'objet trouvé'; until then I had never heard about it. Schwitters was a shattering experience.
- Karel Appel, as quoted in ‘Karel Appel – the complete sculptures’, eds. Harry de Visser / Roland Hagenberg, Edition Lafayette, New York 1990, p. 79