Isle of Man
The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
Kurt Schwitters made the painting 'Isle of Man' in 1941 on the eponymous island in the Irish Sea. It is an abstract painting consisting of organic forms. As a result of these forms there is an easy association with body parts and human organs. The blue curved line which runs from the top left to the bottom right could be the outline of a stomach; the big, light shape in the middle, a womb.
When he was fleeing from the Nazis, Schwitters ended up in an internment camp on the English Isle of Man in 1940. Schwitters, who was good at naturalist paintings, was commissioned to paint portraits there. The materials were scarce but he was given permission to use the linoleum on the floor to paint on. In addition to his commissions he did abstract work including the 'Isle of Man'. Schwitters was no stranger to using random materials that happened to be available, such as the linoleum and he made many collages using waste materials. In one of these, the fragment of a word “merz” catches the eye. This came from the papers of the “Commerz und Privatbank Hannover”. Schwitters liked the sound of this and from that moment he used the term “merz” in all his works.
His working methods resemble those of the Dadaists, who also used unconventional materials and techniques and left room for coincidence in the creation of their work. They deliberately presented “anti-art” with the aim of challenging the established art world and bourgeois ideas. Schwitters not only undermined existing values, he also created new constructions using waste. His early work was strongly geometrical and corresponded to movements such as Cubism and Constructivism. However, it also looked like a painting. Later on it became more organic, as in the 'Isle of Man', in which the influence of the collage technique can still be detected – in fact, a few pieces of paper are literally pasted on. However, it is the way in which Schwitters placed the planes together and cut them off which make it reminiscent of a collage.
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