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Caravaggio and the Painters of the North

From 21 June to 18 September 2016

The Musicians, ca. 1594-95
Oil on canvas. 92.1 x 118.4 cm
The Metropolitan Museum, New York, Rogers Fund
© 2015. The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence
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Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

Kurt Schwitters
Picture from 8 Sides
1930 and 1936
Oil and wood relief on panel
91 x 90 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Numero de inventario
INV. Nr. 745 (1977.104)

More information about this work

Picture from 8 Sides is subjected to very obvious rules of geometry. The gradual geometricisation witnessed in Schwitters’ work from 1922 onwards owing to his association with the Dutch Neo-Plasticists and his friendship with El Lissitzky became even more marked from 1930, when he came into contact with the members of the Cercle et Carré group established in Paris by Michel Seuphor. That March the German artist exhibited alongside them at Galerie 23 in Paris and soon afterwards published his texts in two issues of their periodical. In the March 1930 issue Schwitters wrote: “Art is nothing but structure, creative evidence. In this it is no different from the growth of a plant, or of a crystal, of the life of the stars or the construction of a machine.” In the light of these reflections, it can be considered that certain aspects of Picture from 8 Sides, which is dated two months after he wrote them, denote a working method that is spontaneous and intuitive, accidental even. Despite the predominant geometric austerity that so closely recalls El Lissitzky’s Proun pictures, both the format of the construction and the title suggest that it can be viewed “from eight sides” and may therefore be hung in a variety of manners, as each owner prefers.

On the grounds of one of the inscriptions on the back, “Auflage am 6.2.1936” (Superimposition on 6.2.1936), Karin Orchard and Isabel Schulz, the authors of the catalogue raisonné of the painter’s oeuvre, believe that the relief elements were added to the oil painting in 1936.

Paloma Alarcó

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