© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Kurt Schwitters, German (Hanover, Germany 1887 - 1948 Kendal, England)
Work Type
c. 1922
Physical Descriptions
Paper and fabric collage elements and graphite on brown wove paper
29.7 x 24.1 cm (11 11/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
The Fredric Wertham Collection, gift of his wife Hesketh; to the Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1987.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, The Fredric Wertham Collection, Gift of his wife Hesketh
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Label Text: 32Q: 1500 Art in Germany Between the Wars (Expressionism-Interwar) , written 2014
Originating in 1916 in Zurich, a safe haven for artists during World War I, the Dada movement quickly spread throughout Europe and the United States. Like other Dadaists, close friends Höch (based in Berlin) and Schwitters (located in Hanover) used everyday materials and collage techniques both to signal an end to traditional notions of culture and to act as an analogy for postwar society. Best known for her provocative use of photomontage and her exploration of the “New Woman” in Weimar society, Höch here (BR56.46) reconfigures sewing and embroidery patterns from women’s magazines into an abstract composition, which nonetheless makes reference—wholly positive, from Höch’s perspective—to domestic craft.
Working during the inflationary postwar period, Schwitters called his artistic approach “Merz,” from the German Kommerz (commerce). In Untitled (Kao), (1987.82) he incorporates discarded materials, such as a disassembled box of cocoa (Kakao). An example of his late work, done in exile in Britain, Untitled (Ministry of Food) (2013.45) is comprised of ration coupons issued by the British Ministry of Food, cigarette packages, and bus tickets, all thinly layered on corrugated cardboard. Though such remnants may be identifiable, Schwitters did not attempt to create legible references or fixed meanings; rather, he saw the work in its entirety as a form of protest. “One can even shout with refuse,” he declared.

Publication History

Peter Nisbet and Joseph Koerner, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, ed. Peter Nisbet, Harvard University Art Museums and Scala Publishers Ltd. (Cambridge, MA and London, England, 2007), p. 135

Isabel Schulz, ed., Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage (2010), Cat. 29, p. 46, illus.

Exhibition History

Kurt Schwitters, Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig, 01/27/2000 - 03/26/2000

Kurt Schwitters: Color and Collage, Menil Collection, Houston, 10/22/2010 - 01/30/2011

32Q: 1520 Art in Germany Between the Wars (Interwar and Bauhaus), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 05/06/2015; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/10/2016 - 10/19/2016

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu