Kurt Schwitters’ Catalogue raisonné

Sprengel Museum HannoverSprengel Museum Hannover
The index of Kurt Schwitters artistic works comprises three volumes detailing his entire abstract oeuvre, his representational paintings and drawings and echoing the fact that Schwitters, throughout his life, worked on both abstract as well as representational art.

In autumn 2000, volume 1 was published, and included an inventory of his early works while still at school as well as those later from 1905 at the art academy. This period was followed by one of experimentation with different styles until 1919 when Kurt Schwitters found his own, personal approach to making art, known as “Merz“. It also has the years until 1922 during which he further developed the notion of “Merz“.

Volume 2, which appeared in early 2003, continues from volume 1, and examines Schwitters’ period considering international Constructivism from 1923, and concludes with works realised in the 1930s up to the time Schwitters’ was forced into exile in early 1937.

Works realised during his period in exile in both Norway and in England and until his death in 1948 are in the last volume of the catalogue raisonné, which appeared in the spring of 2006.

These do not include either his literary or his typographical works as these were already mentioned in the complete edition of Schwitters’ works or rather in the index of his works.

After taking on the information compiled by Ernst Schwitters in his index of works, the most important task for the newly-established Kurt Schwitters Archive at the Sprengel Museum Hannover was to achieve an overview of what was mentioned in the index and then to establish exactly what had yet to be catalogued. Karin Orchard became the director of the Kurt Schwitters Archive when it was established in 1994. Isabel Schulz joined the team as a research associate in 1996. Using the HIDA/MIDAS data bank system and the existing index cards, a data bank was established. All its information was checked as carefully and as thoroughly as possible and, where necessary, was supplemented. The estate, which contains about one third of all existing works, was reprocessed especially to include his representational paintings and drawings.

The index cards posed a problem when it came to including works that Kurt Schwitters had sold while still alive, or exchanged with other artists or given away as gifts, as these were not accessible to his son when he was systematically cataloguing his father’s oeuvre. These also included works that Kurt Schwitters' partner, Edith Thomas, inherited, as these generally ended up in collections in either England or the US. Therefore, one of the main priorities of the Kurt Schwitters Archive has been to locate these missing works or at least to find mention of them in documents of the period. For this reason, public and private collections, as well as archives and libraries world-wide, have been contacted systematically and numerous owners of works by Schwitters have been contacted and asked for their co-operation.
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