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.

Snapshots from the Borders

‘Take DADA seriously!’ Cumbrian artists and Royal College of Art students – performance 2017 in the Merz Circle.

Workshops, exhibitions, talks and film screening: ‘To the Four Winds’

Saturday 19th October 2019 at Kurt Schwitters’ Merz Barn, Cylinders Estate, Elterwater LA22 9JB

Programme:  Saturday 19th October 2019

2 – 3 pm   Guided tour of the Merz Barn site and exhibitions

  1. Children’s art of the Holocaust
  2. Entartete Kunst and the Nazi Declaration of war on modern art 
  3. Prism Arts at the Merz Barn exhibition
  4. Harry Pierce – the Drawing Office Garden History micro museum

3 pm         Tea and biscuits for all

3.30 – 5 pm Workshops.  

  • Children’s ‘magic snake stick’ art workshop
  • Workshop on the themes of the ‘Snapshots from the Borders’ project, a Communities of Philosophical Enquiry approach to engage us all in thinking about migration, and empathising with people who choose or are forced to migrate and recognise the values we share.

6 – 7 pm    Bonfire & BBQ – hot soup, sourdough bread and cheese for all

7 – 8 pm    Talk, and film screening at the Merz Barn

                 Screening of the film ‘To the Four Winds’

 and two talks at the Merz Barn: Kurt Schwitters and Gustav Metzger by Lizzie Fisher; The story of Merz and Entartete Kunst by Rosie Galloway-Smith

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 may have been partly inspired to produce the Elterwater Merz Barn in1947 as a response to the destructiveness, and racism of the Nazis

8.30 pm   The Reading of the Names ceremony – the artists’ memorial

We conclude the evening with the ‘Reading of the Names’ ceremony, an annual event honouring the memory of the many artists who were declared ‘degenerate’ (‘entartet’) by the Nazis, and the many other artists who died in the Holocaust or were forced to flee into exile.  In the final part we read out the names of all the artists featured in the infamous Nazi exhibition which opened in Munich in July 1937 (see above).  People are invited to chalk each name on one of the stones in the end wall of the Merz Barn.  Our vicar George Wrigley will lead the dedication.

The memorial is also dedicated in the memory all artists who have suffered persecution, imprisonment, or lost their lives due to their religious beliefs, political affiliations, sexual orientation, gender. or ethnicity.

Sunday 20th October:  To the Four Winds film programme, 2.30 to 4 pm

Over two years To the Four Winds follows an activist smuggler between the Italian/French border in his attempts to ease the migrants’ plight.  The result is a portrait of a group of modern heroes who want to show that Europe is more than its strict immigration policies.  We see Herrou’s crowded backyard, and follow him on his journeys across the border into France or on his way to court.  At the same time the rebellious farmer talks about his motivation and experiences, with the soundtrack weaving together the action, scenes and interviews.

For information on the Sunday programme please contact:   Ian Hunter Celia Larner.

T  015394 37309.  e. littoral@btopenworld.com.  w. merzbarn.net

For the Saturday workshop programme and registrations see: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/snapshots-from-the-border-19th-and-20th-october-2019-tickets-75590554383

A Merz Barn partnership with Cumbria Development Education Centre and No More Bricks in the Wall

The Merz Barn project is organised by LITTORAL Arts
Reg. Company No. 02526443    Reg. Charity No: 1002365
Reg. Office:  The Merz Barn, Cylinders Estate, Elterwater, Ambleside LA22 9JB




Portrait of Harry Pierce by Kurt Schwitters, by courtesy of Mr. William Pierce

to be opened by Harry’s Grandson


Saturday, September 14th, 2019, from 2pm

Cylinders, Elterwater, Ambleside, site of the Merz Barn



Tea and Biscuits will be provided

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