Installation artist, painter and poet, Kurt Schwitters was born into an affluent family in Hanover, Germany on 20 June 1887 and studied in Dresden. Partly influenced by the Dadaists, in 1919 he created his own idiosyncratic form of art: 'Merz' – a term derived from the name 'Kommerz- und Privatbank' which appeared on a cut-up scrap of newspaper – which united all aspects of his prolific output: painting, collage, sculpture, architecture, poetry, drama, typography and happenings. From 1923 his home in Hanover became his most complete Merzbau installation, its rooms filled with the detritus of everyday life alongside larger-scale architectural elements.

In 1937 Schwitters and his son fled to Norway where a second Merzbau was constructed. In 1940, they left for Britain, where they were both interned on the Isle of Man. After his release, Schwitters remained in London until the end of the war when he moved to the Lake District, where he lived until his death. With the original Hannover Merzbau destroyed by allied bombing in 1943, Schwitters created a new Merzbau on a barn wall in Ambleside, funded by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Despite this support, Schwitters was largely neglected as an artist at the end of his life. Kurt Schwitters died in Kendal, Lake District, England on 8 January 1948. His work is now represented in many major European and international collections including the Tate and Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Sprengel Museum, Hanover holds the Schwitters archive and the most comprehensive documentation of his work and the Ambleside Merzbau has now been recreated by the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University.