Lakes tribute for artists who fled Hitler

To the Nazis they were 'degenerates', but among Germany's Modernists was a titan of contemporary art

They were artists without honour in their own land. Derided and abused, Germany's Modernists suffered public scorn and ridicule because their idea of art did not fit with Adolf Hitler's manic hatred of anything considered un-Aryan. Branded "degenerate artists", their work was paraded for the Third Reich's censure and they were banned from producing similar, or in some cases any, work at all.

Now, at last, a campaign is to be launched to raise money for the world's first memorial to the artists driven into exile by the Nazis. However, the permanent tribute, costing around £30,000, will not be sited in Germany but in a secluded glade, near a dilapidated barn, in an isolated valley in the Lake District.

The barn was the last workplace of the most revered of the refugee artists, Kurt Schwitters, widely considered a titan of 20th-century art, comparable in influence with Pablo Picasso and the radical French artist Marcel Duchamp.

Schwitters invented the art form known as Merz (the art of everything). He pioneered collage, was an innovative graphic artist and typographer, performance artist and poet, as well as landscape and portrait painter. His use of recycled debris in his collage and sculptural installations was particularly antagonistic to the Nazis, with their championing of traditional art forms. Along with other "degenerates" his work featured in mock exhibitions staged by the Nazis. He fled Germany, first to Norway and then, when Hitler invaded, caught the last fishing boat out of Scandinavia, survived a torpedo attack and landed in Scotland.

Like other "degenerate" artists, he became part of the movement that spread Modernism throughout the Western world. He died in 1948.

The Lakeland memorial will comprise a glass top over the treated, upturned complex root structure of a fallen tree. Jill Rock, the artist who will produce the work, plans to call it "Roots of Modernism".

Ian Hunter of Littoral Arts, which owns the Cylinders Estate where Schwitters produced his work, in what he called the Merz Barn, near Great Langdale, and where the monument will be sited, said: "As far as we know, there is no formal memorial or designated public place in which to honour or remember all the artists who were interned, executed, or forced to flee their homes and studios."

The Littoral Arts Trust, which looks after the barn and sponsors the project, aims to raise £30,000 by next April. Volunteers are being sought to help with the memorial, and other work proposed at the site.

Launching the international appeal for funds this Saturday, Professor Ute Meta Bauer, Dean of the School of Fine Art at the Royal College of Art, London, will give the annual Kurt Schwitters memorial lecture at the barn. She will also inaugurate a yearly reading of the artists' names ceremony. "The Merz Barn project presents a wonderful opportunity for artists, architects and curators, and art students to ... study and learn from one of the great seminal experimental Modern art projects," she said.

Poignantly, the Royal College was evacuated to Ambleside during the Second World War, but Schwitters was ignored by them when he moved to the area.

Professor Richard Demarco, of the European Art Foundation, said: "Kurt Schwitters was the towering genius of 20th-century art, one of the greatest artists who ever lived. Yet he eked out an existence in the Lake District, leading to his early death. It was a great tragedy."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence