Denounced by the Nazis as an Entartete Kunstler (degenerate artist) Schwitters was forced to flee his home in Hanover in 1937 and seek refuge with his son Ernst in Norway. After the German invasion of Norway in April 1940 he was again forced to flee and, for a second time, had to abandon most of his life's work.
Hutchison Internment Camp, Douglas, Isle of Man
Arriving in Edinburgh in June 1940 on board the icebreaker Fritjof Nansen, he was later interned on the
Isle of Man. Largely unknown and unrecognised as an artist in this country, he lived a hand-to-mouth existence during the war, first in London and later in Ambleside in the Lake District.
Undaunted, Schwitters continued working on many of the pioneering art projects that he had begun in Germany and in Norway, and during his last years in England maintained a very high output of paintings, collages, sculptures, performances, drawings, poetry, theatre projects, and publications. Schwitters applied for and was awarded his British citizenship in January 1948. Unfortunately he died a few days later and so was unable to sign the confirmation documents.
Schwitters in England; a chronology www.schwitters-stiftung.de
The Merz Barn in context
Perhaps the most important of the late works that Schwitters produced while in England was his last great Merzbau, the Merz Barn, a unique hybrid architectural and art installation constructed in a disused farm shed near the village of Elterwater in 1947. The project remained unfinished at the time of his death, and after years of neglect the surviving Merz Barn art work was rescued by Richard Hamilton in 1965, and removed for safe keeping to the University of Newcastle. Although abandoned for forty years, the original Merz Barn building remains largely intact and with evidence of Schwitters' working techniques and materials still visible on some of the barn walls.
Copyright 2011 by LITTORAL. All rights reserved. LITTORAL is a non-profit arts trust which promotes new creative partnerships, critical art practices and cultural strategies in response to issues about social, environmental and economic change. LITTORAL 42, Lodge Mill Lane, Turn Village, Ramsbottom BL0 0RW, UK. Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1706 827 961 e-mail:Ian@littoral.org.uk.