Isle Of Man / Ellan Vannin

Kurt Schwitters internment camp art exhibition opens

A worker poses next to photographs of Kurt Schwitters
Image caption The German artist was arrested by the British in 1940 as an 'enemy alien'
Kurt Schwitters
Image caption Kurt Schwitters is regarded as one of the most influential figures in European modernism
Hutchinson Square internment camp
Image caption Hutchinson Square camp was used by the UK Government for the internment of enemy aliens

A Kurt Schwitters exhibition is being unveiled at a gallery close to where the artist was interned during World War II.

Responses to Place features work made by the German-born artist while he was held on the Isle of Man.

As a German national living in the UK, Schwitters was arrested by the British in 1940 as an "enemy alien".

A Sayle Gallery spokesman described the artist's time in the camp in Douglas as "fertile and stimulating".

Painter, sculptor, typographer and writer, Schwitters once said in a letter dated August 1940 that "art cannot live behind barbed wire".

However, in the Isle of Man he was given an attic studio where he worked every day for almost 18 months.

The gallery spokesman said: "It was in fact a fertile and stimulating time and this extraordinary exhibition reflects this in both Schwitters' own work and in that of other Hutchinson Square internee artists also included in the exhibition."

Image caption After a conventional artistic training he was exempted from military service in WW1 due to epilepsy

Schwitters was interned, with more than 1,000 others, from 17 July 1940 until 21 November 1941 at the camp, which consisted of about 40 boarding houses enclosed with barbed wire.

The Isle of Man camps enabled the UK Government to imprison people thought to be dangerous to national security, without charge, trial or set term.

Schwitters, who was at the cutting edge of German art in the 1920s and 1930s, was ridiculed by the Nazi government, which deemed his unconventional work "degenerate".

Lumped together with other "degenerate artists" such as van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso, he fled with his son to Norway in 1937. Upon the German invasion in 1940, he moved to Scotland.

On arrival, he was arrested, interned as an enemy alien and shipped to Douglas, to be housed in Camp P in Hutchinson Square.

With his one-man art movement Merz, Schwitters is said to have influenced artists from Robert Rauschenberg to Damien Hirst and Sir Peter Blake.

Earlier this year his work was the subject of a major exhibition at Tate Britain.

After being released from the Isle of Man camp, Schwitters moved to London and later to the Lake District where he spent the final three years of his life.

The artist was working on his final creation, the Merz Barn near Ambleside, Cumbria, when he died in 1948.

Kurt Schwitters: Responses to Place will be on display at the Sayle Gallery for one month, from 27 September.

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