Kurt Schwitters' last Merzbau: The Elterwater Merz Barn


The Harry Pierce Micro-Museum and Reading Room

The Cylinders estate in Langdale, heart of the South Lakeland National Park and home to Kurt Schwitters’ Merz Barn, opens a new attraction to the public on June 20th 2019 at 2 pm.

Thanks to a grant from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, supported and administered by the Cumbria Fells & Dales Local Action Group, the old Drawing Office at Cylinders has been completely rebuilt on the site of the derelict original.

The original little building was built by Landscape Designer Harry Pierce, owner of Cylinders, in the early 1940s, as a place in which to create his garden plans for Mawson’s of Windermere, for whom he was the chief designer.  The new building is designated as a micro-museum, and will hold a selection of Pierce’s plans for his own garden at Cylinders, plus his writings about his experiences and dreams, and photographs taken at the time.

The Drawing Office museum will open to the public from 2 pm on June 20th, when there will be a reception, and guided tours of the museum and site.  

Thereafter The Drawing Office will be open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, free of charge.  There is ample parking inside the gates.  

Please keep dogs on the lead, and remember that Cylinders is a wildlife and plant and fungus sanctuary.

The Ambleside Art Society visits Cylinders

Members of the Ambleside Art Society visiting the new Drawing Office on July 11th 2019

We are delighted by the choice by Ambleside Art Society of Cylinders for their annual sketching trip.

They were also able to enjoy a cup of tea in the new Drawing Office, and view the exhibition of Harry Pierce’s 1943 plans for Cylinders, and the Pierce family archive of photographs of Cylinders in the 1940s and 50s.


Image taken in front of the Merz Barn at the 2018 Summer School

This year the annual Summer School at the Merz Barn is again organised by Cat Robertson and students at the Royal School of Art.

It runs from July 13th to July 22nd, and is fully booked.

The students will be staying in the TOC H bunk barn at Chapel Stile, next to the river, where the accommodation is a great deal more comfortable than at Cylinders.

All best wishes for a fine summer!


Images from the BBC programme ‘Civilisation’: ‘The Vital Spark’ with Sir Simon Schama

It was through the Wiener Library in London, and later Sir Simon Schama’s BBC Civilization TV series – in particular the programme ‘The Vital Spark’, about the children’s art project in Theresienstadt, that we at the Merz Barn were inspired to develop the concept of the ‘Artists of the Holocaust’ memorial project at the Merz Barn site.  Encouraged by their heroic art teacher Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, the children in the Theresienstadt concentration camp created images conjuring up the lives and hopes of which they were being deprived, and Schama’s programme is a poignant tribute to the power of art to sustain optimism in the face of adversity.

The Dream

‘The Dream’ – one of the Theresienstadt children’s paintings

Artists and the Holocaust Exhibition in the Merz Barn Cake Room.

The ‘Cake Room’ exhibition space, and the seating circle outside the Merz Barn, are designated as a memorial to the artists, composers, musicians, dancers and writers, – and children – who were proscribed by the Nazis during their campaign of terror (1934 – 1944, or exterminated in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Belsen, Theresienstadt, etc.

The connection with Langdale is through the German refugee artist Kurt Schwitters, who came here in 1947 to work on what was to be his last great experimental art work; the Merz Barn.   Although not Jewish, Schwitters identified closely with the Jewish people, and many of his artist friends were Jewish.

‘Writing the Names’ the Entartete Kunst memorial project

Alongside the ‘Artists of the Holocaust’ exhibition we are continuing with the Entartete Kunst documentation project.  Over the summer and autumn we are planning a number of exhibitions, seminars and events to commemorate the artists who, like Kurt Schwitters, were declared ‘degenerate’ (entartet) by the Nazis.

As a part of this we have a list of the names of the artists included in the infamous ‘Entartete Kunst’ exhibition in Munich in July 1937.  We invite visitors to the Merz Barn, and the ‘Artists and the Holocaust’ exhibition, to help us celebrate the artists’ names by writing them in chalk on the end wall of the Merz Barn.

plaza Aug '14

The Merz Barn Circle and end wall

Please enjoy the little memorial circle and, if you would like to, take a piece of chalk and write the name of one of the artists (list supplied) persecuted and declared ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis, on the wall of the barn.


Jill:Ian and ent. kunst wall

Artist Jill Rock with Ian Hunter in 2013 after the artists’ names have been chalked on the Merz Barn wall for the first time.

Coloured chalks are provided for children and young people to create their own drawings and art works on the flag-stones flooring the Memorial circle.

The motto for the Merz Barn project is..

“The triumph of creativity over evil”


my spirit...1

Pip Hall’s beautiful  carving at Cylinders

On Saturday October 27th 2018 Pip Hall finished carving the inscription of a saying by Kurt Schwitters on a found glacial erratic boulder at Cylinders.

The work was finished in time for the annual Reading of the Names of the artists ridiculed by the Nazi régime in the Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich in 1938.  This moving ceremony was led by the vicar of All Saints church, Chapel Stile, George Wrigley, and, in a departure from our usual practice,  took place in the candlelight inside the Merz Barn.

My spirit sm


Pip at work sm

Pip Hall at work



Annual Commemoration at the Merz Barn


Hitler degen 1

At the 1937 Munich exhibition of ‘Degenerate Art’ a .painting by Kurt Schwitters is hung deliberately upside-down and at an angle, as seen here above the Führer’s head. Schwitters could have been partly inspired to produce the Elterwater Merz Barn in response to the utter destructiveness, barbarism and racism of the Nazis.

It’s never too late..!

Artists and community gather to commemorate the many artists who were declared degenerate (entartet) by the Nazis, and to honour the countless other artists, gay people, Roma, Seventh Day Adventists, Black Africans, Anabaptists, and people with disabilities who perished in the Nazi death camps*. 

7 – 9 pm, Saturday 27th October 2018

At Kurt Schwitters Merz Barn, Elterwater LA22 9JB

*This year, inspired by Professor Simon Schama’s wonderful The Vital Spark, (Civilisation No. 9, BBC TV documentary) we will be remembering the little Jewish girl Helen Mandlova, who was murdered by the Nazis in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.  We will also be honouring the ‘unquenchable creative fire’ of the other child artists of Theresienstadt and their courageous and gifted art teacher, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis.

Cylinders Estate (opposite the Langdale Hotel) Elterwater, Ambleside, LA22 9JB 

BBQ (free soup and home-made bread, BYO bottle) – all welcome!

Tel. 015394 37309  littoral@btopenworld.com   <www.merzbarn.net>