Kurt Schwitters Criticism - Essay

Sidney Tillim (essay date 1963)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Schwitters: Dada as Fine Art," in Arts Magazine, Vol. 38, No. 3, December 1963, pp. 54-59.

[In the following essay, Tillim explores Schwitters 's relationship to orthodox Dada.]

The artistic substance of Dada has rarely, if ever, been treated to purely aesthetic dissection. The works of visual art that came of the movement conceived in a Zurich cabaret in 1916 are invariably regarded as the extension or expression, or both, of a disturbance that went far beyond the limits of art and which gained its artistic context, since music, literature, drama and architecture were also involved, simply because artists happened to be associated with it. Artists, in fact,...

(The entire section is 3296 words.)

John Elderfield (essay date 1971)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Early Work of Kurt Schwitters," in Artforum Vol. X, No. 3, November, 1971, pp. 54-67.

[In the following essay, Elderfield examines the structure of Schwitters's collages and assemblages of 1917 to 1923, discussing aesthetic developments in his art during this period.]

An object that tells of the loss, destruction, disappearance of objects. Does not speak of itself Tells of others. Will it include them.

—Jasper Johns

In 1919, Kurt Schwitters chose the word "Merz" to describe what he called his "pasted and nailed pictures" because he could not "define them with the older...

(The entire section is 10425 words.)

Philip Thomson (essay date 1972)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Case of Dadaistic Ambivalence: Kurt Schwitters's Stramm-Imitations and 'An Anna Blume,'" in The German Quarterly, Vol. XLV, No. 1, January, 1972, pp. 47-56.

[In the following essay, Thomson evaluates the ambiguous nature of Schwitters's "An Anna Blume" as art and anti-art, sense and nonsense, serious poetry and parody.]

The recent revival of interest in Dada, accompanying such essentially neo-Dadaist phenomena as pop art, "happenings," and the like, has raised anew the question—properly, for it is a central one—of the Dadaists' attitude to their activities. The question is usually put in the form of contraries: Art or anti-art? Sense or nonsense?...

(The entire section is 3609 words.)

Ulrich Finke (essay date 1973)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Kurt Schwitters' Contribution to Concrete Art and Poetry," in Forum For Modern Language Studies, Vol. IX, No. 1, January, 1973, pp. 75-85.

[In the following essay, Finke considers Schwitters as an early proponent of concrete poetry and discusses his contribution to the visualization of language in writing and art.]

"Kurt Schwitters was called the master of collage. He was the master of collage. The heresy of giving a new value to odd and overlooked, downtrodden bits of reality—be they bits of wire or bits of words—by putting them together into some specific kind of relationship and creating thus a new entity, was the essence of Schwitters'...

(The entire section is 5033 words.)

John Elderfield (essay date 1973)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Private Objects: The Sculpture of Kurt Schwitters," in Artforum, Vol. XII, No. 1, September, 1973, pp. 45-54.

[In the following essay, Elderfield studies Schwitters's sculptural pieces, characterizing these as the artist's most personal works.]

Schwitters' output as an artist was prodigious, but of all the arts he worked in, the one most objectlike in character—sculpture—seems somewhat peripheral to his main achievement. The eccentric Dadaist sculptures of the early years appear to be mere offshoots from the far more seriously motivated assemblages that spawned them. The small organic-looking works of wood or plaster and wire dating from the mid-'20s are...

(The entire section is 7906 words.)

Times Literary Supplement (essay date 1973)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Das literarische Werk, in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 3735, October 5, 1973, p. 1186.

[In the following review, the unsigned critic laments the editorial flaws present in the first volume of Schwitters's Das literarische Werk, which make Schwitters "seem even more obscure, whimsical, and inaccessible than before. "]

The literary productions of German Dada have long languished under a cloud. They have never been regarded as a respectable object for scholarly investigation, and in any event it has been virtually impossible to study them in depth because the works have for the most part either been out of print for a generation or...

(The entire section is 1794 words.)

Rex W. Last (essay date 1973)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Kurt Schwitters: The Merz Artist from Revon," in German Dadaist Literature: Kurt Schwitters, Hugo Ball, Hans Arp, Twayne Publishers, 1973, pp. 31-61.

[In the following essay, Last surveys Schwitters's life, prose, and poetry, calling his work "a retreat from reality " into a "private world of shapes and patterns. "]

Each of the Dadaists approached the practical business of creating a work of art—or nonart—in his own unique fashion; although all pursued the same, or at least closely related, objectives, each chose his own unmistakable and distinctive angle of attack. The very lack of uniformity was, in itself, a sign both of their positive strength...

(The entire section is 11742 words.)

Rex W. Last (review date 1975)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE; "One Man's Merz," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 3808, February 28, 1975, p. 231.

[In the following review, Last describes Schwitters's short prose works "Die Zwiebel" and "Franz Müllers Drahtfrühling. "]

Like many of that generation of the European avant-garde associated with Dada and Surrealism, Kurt Schwitters worked in several artistic media and sought to break down the barriers between the different art forms, and also between what convention deemed to be "art" and "non-art". Although something of a loner, in that he did not join any large group of artists, but preferred to work in relative isolation, cultivating "Merz", his own brand of Dada,...

(The entire section is 1016 words.)

Annegreth Nill (essay date 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Weimar Politics and the Theme of Love in Kurt Schwitters' Das Baumerbild" in Dada/Surrealism, No. 13, 1984, pp. 17-36.

[In the following essay, Nill interprets Schwitters's assemblage Das Bäumerbild in the context of post-World War I German politics, finding in the work symbols of love and war.]

While the Hanover Dadaist Kurt Schwitters vociferously rejected using art as political propaganda, he did not reject the use of political propaganda in art, as countless political phrases which function as "material" in his literary works attest.1 For example, in his prose poem "Aufruf (ein Epos)" (1921), Schwitters spliced together...

(The entire section is 6575 words.)

Friedhelm Lach (essay date 1985)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Schwitters: Performance Notes," in Dado/Dimensions, Edited by Stephen C. Foster, UMI Research Press, 1985, pp. 39-45.

[In the following essay, Lach characterizes Schwitters's Merz works as avant-garde performances of creativity.]

The rediscovery of Kurt Schwitters coincided with the discovery of the "event" character of art—with Pop, neo-Dada, happenings, and performance art. It is this event character of art that allows me to present Kurt Schwitters, who died in 1948, as the father of contemporary art currents and events and to celebrate him as the ingenious inventor who did in the 1920s what became, in the long run, the representative art of the...

(The entire section is 3156 words.)

E. S. Shaffer (essay date 1990)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Kurt Schwitters, Merzkunstler: Art and Word-Art," in Word and Image, Vol. 6, No. 1, January, 1990, pp. 100-18.

[In the following essay, Shaffer investigates the multiple genres of Schwitters's oeuvreincluding visual and literary works: collages, poems, essays, performances, and plays. Shaffer concludes, "We need a new reading of the full verbal and visual core of his work, which is more extensive and more significant for all his work than has been understood hitherto. "]

Kurt Schwitters was born in Hanover in 1887, trained in Dresden (1909-13) and Berlin and, on being condemned by National Socialism as a 'cultural bolshevik' whose works were...

(The entire section is 7988 words.)

Marjorie Perloff (review date 1994)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of pppppp: Poems Performance Pieces Proses Plays Poetics, in Sulfur, Vol. XIV, No. 1, Spring, 1994, pp. 201-08.

[In the following review of pppppp: Poems Performance Pieces Proses Plays Poetics, Perloff discusses the pitfalls of translating Schwitters's "abstract poetry. "]

In a 1924 manifesto called "Consistent Poetry/' which appears in Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris's beautifully produced and edited selection of Schwitters's literary works, we read:

Classical poetry counted on the similarities between people. It considered the association of ideas as unambiguous. It was mistaken. At any rate it...

(The entire section is 2983 words.)