The Artist Birthday Series

Kurt Schwitters

"Das Leinewehr," 1911 by Kurt Schwitters
“Das Leinewehr,” 1911 by Kurt Schwitters

Schwitters spent the last one and half years of the war working as a technical draftsman in a factory just outside Hanover. He was drafted into the 73rd Hanoverian Regiment in March 1917, but exempted as unfit in June of the same year. By his own account, his time as a draftsman influenced his later work, using machines as metaphors of human activity. “In the war [at the machine factory at Wülfen] I discovered my love for the wheel and recognized that machines are abstractions of the human spirit.

"Construction For Noble Ladies," 1919 by Kurt Schwitters
“Construction For Noble Ladies,” 1919 by Kurt Schwitters

He married his cousin Helma Fischer on 5 October 1915. Their first son, Gerd, died within a week of birth, 9 September 1916; their second, Ernst, was born on 16 November 1918, and was to remain close to his father for the rest of his life, up to and including a shared exile in Britain together.

"Portrait Of Helma Schwitters," 1917 by Kurt Schwitters
“Portrait Of Helma Schwitters,” 1917 by Kurt Schwitters

In 1918, his art was to change dramatically as a direct consequence of Germany’s economic, political, and military collapse at the end of the First World War. “In the war, things were in terrible turmoil. What I had learned at the academy was of no use to me and the useful new ideas were still unready…. Everything had broken down and new things had to be made out of the fragments; and this is Merz. It was like a revolution within me, not as it was, but as it should have been.”

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