Kurt Schwitters Merz Picture 32 A. The Cherry Picture (Merzbild 32 A. Das Kirschbild) 1921

  • Not on view

At the center of this large-scale assemblage sits a vocabulary card printed with a cluster of orange cherries and the German and French words for the fruit. Above, scrawled in pencil, floats the phrase Ich liebe Dir!: faulty German for “I love you” (Ich liebe dich). The words invoke Schwitters’s 1919 poem “To Anna Blume,” which first established his fame.

Schwitters constructed this assemblage from scraps of modern life collected on the streets of Hannover: commercial labels, newspaper clippings, printed and handwritten text, bits of fabric and wood, and two corks, among other items. In arranging the topmost layer along a perpendicular grid, however, Schwitters imposed a sense of order on the material cacophony. The objects were pasted and hammered onto what appears to be an earlier oil painting, its moody greens and blues still partly visible. The reworking testifies to a conceptual shift: from the work of art as picture to the work of art as surface for the accumulation of matter. This move, from an optical model of art-making to a tactile one, was revolutionary.

The term Merz was Schwitters’s invention. Partly derived from the German word Kommerz (commerce), it designated his collage process. In his Hannover home, which he called the Merzbau (Merz-building), the idea became architectural: it is an abstract, walk-in collage environment, a repository for memory and matter.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Additional text

Kurt Schwitters made this work from scraps and objects he collected from the streets of his hometown of Hanover, Germany. Although he scavenged the fragments, Schwitters carefully composed and affixed them with glue and nails to a painted board to make this collage. Merz Picture 32A. The Cherry Picture has many layers: light and dark paint on the board form the base of the collage and give an illusion of depth; affixed to the board are various fabrics, an image of kittens, candy wrappers, newspaper clippings, and a flashcard of cherries, onto which Schwitters penciled the ungrammatical phrase “Ich liebe dir!” (“I love she!”). Three-dimensional objects, including a broken pipe, protrude from the surface.

Merz Picture 32A belongs to the so-called Merz series, a term Schwitters made up by cutting a scrap from the second syllable of the German word “Kommerz” (commerce), which he included in one of his early collage paintings. Schwitters was trained as a painter, but as World War I came to an end he adopted collage as his preferred process, saying, “Everything had broken down in any case and new things had to be made out of the fragments.” With his Merz project he aimed “to create connections, preferably between everything in this world.”

Cut-and-pasted colored and printed paper, cloth, wood, metal, cork, oil, pencil, and ink on board
36 1/8 x 27 3/4" (91.8 x 70.5 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. A. Atwater Kent, Jr. Fund
Object number
© 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Drawings and Prints

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Provenance Research Project

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

Hjalmar Gabrielson, Göteborg, Sweden. Purchased from Schwitters, by 1922 [1923]

Brita (Gretzer) Holmquist, New York. Inherited from her grandfather, Hjalmar Gabrielson

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased from Mrs. Brita Holmquist, 1954

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