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The House of Art

Modern Residences of Artists as the Subject and Space of Creation

Andrzej Pieńkos

The term «house of art» designates the cultural phenomenon and creative mode in modernity associated with an artist’s residence as his own creation and as his product of a need to create which is unfulfilled in the painter’s, writer’s or composer’s actual field. This book discusses the most important of these creations from the 18 th century to the beginning of the 20 th , including gardens as well as the artist’s space, broadly understood, annexed by his imagination. An artist’s shaping of his own residence was most commonly a secondary area of his creative work. The formula for a «house of art» is specific to the particular artist and does not have to fit within any given architectural or decorative style. It may conform to the traditions of a residence (artist’s palace, cottage etc), but most often it forms an individual case.


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Kurt Schwitters began creating the Merz column Merzbau in his Hanover house around the year 1920; this, as he later admitted himself, was his life’s work, which he continued to construct and restructure until the end of his life.620 The core of the structure, which from 1923 onwards was consistently growing in, and then out of, the artist’s studio, was a gathering of objects, forms, mementoes and rubbish based on the principle of a perpetual assemblage and concurrently an environment (Fig. 170). “This form was changing with time, growing, spreading to subsequent rooms, spatially and temporally incomplete, because the period of its making was the period of its creator’s life”.621 Marta Leśniakowska stated emphatically: “A house of an artist becomes a house of the work”.622 But a work may also become a house. Leaving Hanover in 1937, Schwitters abandoned the Merzbau in the eight rooms of his house and later applied the same creative principle in emigration, in two more Merz structures, repeated in Norway and England. The Merzbau, which “was at heart an essen- tially autobiographical structure”623, should be analysed, too, as a part of the 620 The literature referring to the Merzbau is substantial; the following seem to be the most relevant to the research perspective assumed herein: R. Cardinal, ‘Collecting and Collage-making: The Case of Kurt Schwitters’, in: J. Elsner and R. Cardinal, The Cultures of Collecting, London, 1994, pp. 68–96; M. Leśniakowska, ‘Dom artysty – strategie separacji’, in: A. Pieńkos...

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