Merz Barn

Kurt Schwitters' final, and only surviving 'Merz bau', converted from a shed in a remote woodland in Cumbria.

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Feature List

  • Artist in residence
  • Community arts projects
  • Research seminars

Born in Hanover, Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) became a prominent painter, sculptor, typographer and writer, influenced by German Expressionism and Cubism. From around 1917 he became known for his distinctive form of Dada, which he named 'Merz'. From 1923, he began building 'Merz' constructions in his house in Hanover, dubbing this building the first 'Merzbau'. The house functioned as a live-in 'merz' collage, filled with around 40 'grottoes' - at once studio, home and ever-evolving work of art.

Under the Nazis, Schwitters' work was deemed 'degenerate' and he fled first to Norway and then, in 1940 to London. His second Merzbau, the 'Haus am Bakken' was built in Lysaker, near Oslo, between 1937-40, but was destroyed in a fire in the 1950s. In 1945, Schwitters moved from London to Ambleside, Cumbria, with his wife. Here, in a remote woodland in the Langdale Valley, he created his final 'Merz' construction, the only one to survive today. Converted from an old shed, the 'Merz barn' was still unfinished at his death in 1948, and fell into disrepair, until in 1965 its contents were transferred to the Hatton Gallery. The Merz Barn building is now owned by the Littoral Trust and open to the public. The Littoral Trust also runs a series of research, community and artists' residency projects that seek to respond to Schwitters' legacy.

Opening Times

Every day, 10am - 5pm



01706 827 961

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