dinsdag, januari 19, 2016

Kurt Schwitters

Kurt Schwitters in front of the Merz Barn in Cumbria, accompanied by fellow artist-in-exile Hilde Goldschmidt, 1947.

"The only known photograph of the German artist Kurt Schwitters at the place where he worked against all the odds on what he hoped would be his final masterpiece – the Merz Barn at Elterwater, near Ambleside – was taken some time in 1946, and almost every aspect of it seems designed to mislead. For one thing, there is the weather, which is idyllic, sunshine falling on the fells like a blessing. For another, there is Schwitters himself, who looks, in his worsted suit and tie, more like a Manchester brewer up for the weekend than an artist in search of a studio. He even has company, in the form of his friend the painter Hilde Goldschmidt, a fellow refugee from Nazi Germany, jaunty in a short-sleeved dress and wide-brimmed hat. All they need to complete the lie is a bulging picnic basket and a beck-chilled bottle of dandelion and burdock.

A more truthful photograph, I think to myself as I arrive at Elterwater, would have caught Schwitters on a day much like this one: barely above freezing, snow on the ground, driving sleet. He would have been inside the barn, not mooning around outside it, and he would have been swaddled, tramp-like, in as many layers of wool and tweed as he possessed, a beret pulled tight over his ears. His trousers would have been spattered with cement, his shoulders dusted with plaster. Hilde, of course, would have been safely at home by the fire. In a way, then, you could say I've been quite lucky with the weather today.
The Merz Barn, remote, dilapidated and mostly forgotten, stands as a perfect metaphor for the life and reputation of the man who once worked inside it. Kurt Schwitters is an artist's artist, influential and revered. A key figure of dadaism, he made some of the 20th century's most beautiful and accomplished collages, and in doing so paved the way for pop art and arte povera. Yet in Britain, the country that sheltered him for the last eight years of his life, he remains a kind of secret, stubbornly and – some might say – unaccountably obscured from view. Even the art lovers who parade through Brantwood, the house where Ruskin went mad at nearby Coniston, tend not to have this shrine on their itineraries – for all that, in its own way, it is just as haunting.
inside there is nothing much to see: Schwitters died in January 1948, having worked on his final project for just three months, and the only section of what he envisaged as a kind of modernist grotto, its walls thick with sculpture and found objects, was removed for safekeeping to the Hatton Gallery, in Newcastle, in 1965.

Merz Barn at Elterwater, near Ambleside. (foto: Adam James)

Panoramic exterior of the Merz Barn. (bron: The Guardian, foto: Nick May)

Veel meer over Kurt Schwitters en de Merz Barn kun je vinden bij merzbarnlangdale (hk).

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