Lakes artist Kurt Schwitters may finally gain British citizenship

The Westmorland Gazette: Kurt Schwitters Kurt Schwitters

KURT Schwitters could be posthumously awarded British citizenship – 68 years after the death of the exiled avant garde artist.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is being urged by Lakes MP Tim Farron to seek approval for the move from the Home Office.

Schwitters, a Hanover-born German national, became a refugee during the Second World War because of Hitler’s determination to wipe out modern art and its unconventional creators.

Schwitters’ last home was at Millans Park in Ambleside, before he died in hospital in Kendal in January 1948 at the age of 60.

Despite official papers having arrived the day before he died confirming his citizenship, it is understood the now-celebrated artist was too ill to sign them.

Westmorland MP Tim Farron is now asking the Lib Dem leader to petition the Home Office so Schwitters achieves in death what he sought in life.

Mr Farron said: “He came to the UK looking to escape oppression and the persecution of the Nazis, and decided he wanted to be British. Sadly, the papers arrived too late.

“Becoming a UK citizen would make a big difference to his art work as it would come under UK rules and give for example, the right to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, to stop his work leaving the country.”

An exhibition celebrating Schwitters’ work is running at London’s Tate Britain and runs until May 12, and the citizenship move has won the support of its director Penelope Curtis.

The exhibition at the Tate focuses on his ‘British period’, in which Schwitters was inspired by the rural Cumbrian landscape.

He began to incorporate natural objects into his work after moving to the Lake District in 1945.

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This inspiration was shown in a group of his small sculptures, including Untitled (Opening Blossom) 1942-5, which he considered to be among his finest.

His move to Cumbria also culminated in the creation of his last great sculpture and installation, the Merz Barn in the Langdale Valley.

The architectural construction is considered to be one of the key ‘lost’ works of European modernism.

Also on display is an exploration of Schwitter’s lasting legacy through commissions by artists Adam Chodzko and Laure Prouvost, made in collaboration with Grizedale Arts.

Schwitters’ work was also shown at Kendal’s Abbot Hall Art Gallery in 2011 and the Armitt Museum in Ambleside in 2004.

The artist was known for using porridge in the absence of plaster of paris and this was recreated when an enthusiast smashed Hitler's image to reveal a commemorative plaque at his former home, where he lived from 1946-48.

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