- Kurt Schwitters
- MERZZEICHNUNG 85 ZICKZACKROT (MERZDRAWING 85 ZIG-ZAG RED)
signed K. Sch., dated 20 (lower right) and titled on the artist's overmount
mixed media collage on paper
- collage size: 15.7 by 15.1cm., 6 1/8 by 5 7/8 in.
- overmount size: 25.5 by 20.7cm., 10 by 8 1/8 in.
A gift from the above to the present owner in 1945
Berlin, Galerie Der Sturm, Der Sturm. 90, Graphische Gesamtschau, 1920, no. 180
Berlin, Galerie Der Sturm, Der Sturm. 91, Johannes Molzahn, Graphische Gesamtschau, 1920, no. 131
Berlin, Galerie Der Sturm, Der Sturm, 97, Robert Delaunay, Gesamtschau, 1921, no. 72
Berlin, Galerie Der Sturm, Der Sturm, 104, Arnold Topp, Adolf Bauer-Saar, Gesamtschau des Sturm, 1922, no. 132
Berlin, Galerie Der Sturm, Der Sturm, 138, Otto Nebel, Kurt Schwitters. Gesamtschau, 1925, no. 56
Stockholm, Riksförbundet för Bildande Kunst, Utställning för konsthögskolans elever, 1954
Stockholm, Galleri Samlaren, Collage eller fantastika realiteter, 1958, no. 37
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Dada, 1966, no. 81
Stockholm, Konstsalongen Samlaren, Kurt Schwitters i svensk ägo, 1967, no. 65
Kurt Schwitters' Merzzeichnungen, or Merz-drawings, comprise an extensive series of abstract collages which the artist first started to create in Berlin in 1918, soon after he had begun to associate with the avant-garde and the burgeoning Dada movement. The collages consist predominantly of fragments of found objects and autobiographical ephemera – tram tickets, cigarette packets and newspaper clippings – in addition to decorative elements, such as pieces of wallpaper or netting, as in the present example. These different elements are arranged in a seemingly chaotic manner; however, closer inspection reveals that the composition is carefully structured to juxtapose angle against plane, colour against black and white, text against image. The dynamic picture surface is therefore punctuated by staccato references to individual places and episodes in history.
Schwitters' collages represent a crucial moment in the development of pictorial abstraction, taking as their precursor the papier collé technique pioneered by the Cubists and then discarding all associated intentions towards objective representation. Instead, they introduce the fundamental concept of chance, whereby each fragment in the composition can be freely associated with ideas and objects both interior and anterior to the work itself. The spectator is engaged in a game of recognition which may be conscious or subconscious, poignant or irrelevant. Most importantly, this psychological aspect is a crucial antecedent to the Surrealist's concept of objective chance and their elaboration of 'the uncanny' as a principle for the creation of art.
The first private owner of the present work was the Swedish painter and critic Otto Gustaf Carlsund. During his time in Paris between 1924 and 1930, Carlsund was an exponent of Cubism and geometric abstraction, forming close friendships with Léger, Le Corbusier, Ozenfant and Mondrian among others. In 1929 Carlsund co-founded the Art Concret group in Paris with Theo van Doesburg and Leon Tutundjian. A failed exhibition of works by Mondrian, van Doesburg and Arp in Stockholm in 1930 caused Carlsund significant problems and prevented him returning to Paris. He instead turned to writing and art criticism, often radical in content. Carlsund's ownership of the present work almost until his death when he gifted it to the present owner, reflected his interest in avant-garde ideas and his continued fascination with the relationship between geometric layers and planes.