On the verso, dated and inscribed with Ernst Schwitters’ preliminary oeuvre number “Oeuvre-No. 1942/43, 968” in pencil and black ink. Schwitters left Germany in early January 1937 after having left the country for longer periods numerous times since 1930. For example, he travelled to Paris (where he became a member of the Abstraction Création artist group), Switzerland, and Holland, but also took numerous trips to Scandinavia, where he developed a particular fondness for Norway. He finally settled in Lysaker near Oslo, spending the summers in Molde. However, the war and the occupation of Norway by the German Wehrmacht soon caught up with him. He was able to flee Norway, leaving by ship at the last moment and arriving April 1940 in England, where he would remain until his death in 1948. Here he was to create an equally mature late oeuvre of collages, assemblages, reliefs, sculptures, as well as classic landscape and portrait paintings. In comparison to his earlier works, these pieces differ in their more modest materials, but lack nothing in their intellectual intensity. Schwitters used humble ephemera to reflect on life in his new homes in Norway and then Britain, working quite literally with the ghosts of the age. These same spirits define the character of his luxurious collage on paper from the years 1942 /45. Characteristically, Schwitters worked with any everyday items he considered worthy of artistic consideration: Stamps, newspaper cuttings, advertisements with photographic reproductions, titles, bus tickets, textile, sweet wrappers, photographs and a letter with Schwitters’ actual London address: 39 Westmoreland Road (see detail). With a playful touch paired with charm and endless surprises, works like this unusually large collage combine archived relics, partially overpainted in oils, to form a pictorial riddle. Schwitters named the result after postal stubs: “Counterfoil / Kontrollabschnitt”. Isabel Schulz writes, “Kurt Schwitters analyses his own civilisation through its debris” (Isabel Schulz, „Die Kunst ist mir viel zu wertvoll, um als Werkzeug missbraucht zu werden“. Kurt Schwitters und die Politik, in: Schwitters Arp, exhib. cat.: Kunstmuseum Basel 2004, p. 200). Thus he was able to create his “Merzbild” collages in Hanover, Berlin, Basel, Norway, and finally in 39 Westmoreland Road in the London suburb of Barnes. His concern with current affairs is virulently evident, although at times only hinted at as a concealed political viewpoint. Chance finds emphasise the boundless power of his creative imagination. The use of art as a journal of daily life and the intense union of oppositions and similarities were both central ideas in Schwitters’ everyday work as an artist. Thus, his collages tell more than one story on more than one level, revealing instead an anthology of events which Schwitters continued to holistically combine together within his own personal Merz-World until his death in January 1948 and finds a brilliant continuation in works by Robert Rauschenberg, for example. Following the artist’s death, this large-format collage initially went to his son Ernst Schwitters. To date it has only been displayed a few times: in the Gallery Gmurzynska, Cologne in October 1978, and in the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1985. This exhibition went on to the Tate Gallery in London and finally to the Sprengel Museum in Hanover.
Minimal traces of moisture on single elements of the collage.