October 19, 2011

Kurt Schwitters' Merz Fairy Tales

schwitters_scarecrow.jpg

There was a fantastic exhibition of Kurt Schwitters' art work this past spring and summer at Princeton, which woke me up to the Dadaist collagist's wacked out fairy tales and illustrated children's books.

Schwitters began publishing fairy tales illustrated with El Lissitzky-slike typographical designs in his Merz magazines in the mid-1920s. With de Stijl co-founder Theo van Doesburg and his catalyzing collaborator Kate Steinitz, he published three children's books, Die Scheuche (The Scarecrow) in 1924-5. [The image above is from an inscribed copy of The Scarecrow from the Schroeder family--as in the Gerrit Rietveld-Schroeder House Schroeders--and was sold by Christie's Amsterdam last March.]

As the Nazis began spinning classic fairy tales to their own nationalistic ends, Schwitters continued to write tweaked out children's stories as absurdist, rebellious countermeasures, but most were unpublished in his lifetime.

In 2009, Jack Zipes translated and published 32 Schwitters stories as Lucky Hans and Other Merz Fairy Tales .

Mar 22-23, 2011, Lot 675, THE BOOK 'DIE SCHEUCHE' (SCARECROW), sold for €2,250 [christies]
Buy Lucky Hans and Other Merz Fairy Tales on Amazon for around $14 [amazon]
A good overview of Steinitz and Schwitters, by Kathy Grossman [rbpathways]

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