Letter: Hidden treasure

I WAS intrigued to read Matt Seaton's article about Kurt Schwitters ("Fragments of a life", Review, 11 April) for I have my own Schwitters story. In 1978 I shared a shop with a young man who one day presented a small collage involving an image of an old penny. I knew about Schwitters and I contemplated buying it for the asking price of pounds 200 but was not greatly impressed by this particular piece. I knew the collage was genuine because the young man's father had been a manager of a hotel in Ambleside during the war and had befriended Schwitters, who painted his portrait and gave him a few of his collages. This was one of those.

A few years later, in a street market in Brighton I was surprised to see the young man selling potted plants and among them was the Schwitters collage. He now wanted pounds 1,000 for it. I mentioned to a friend that there was a Kurt Schwitters among the potted plants. Incredulous at first, he went away, researched the current market value, came back and bought it for pounds 800. It was the collage, mentioned in Mr Seaton's article, that was eventually sold by Sotheby's for pounds 13,000, having been authenticated by the artist's son, Ernst, in Norway. And I never got so much as a cup of tea! As Matt Seaton describes, frustration and Schwitters seem to be inextricably linked, even now.


Saltdean, East Sussex