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Artists Hans Arp

Hans Arp

French-German-American Sculptor, Painter, and Collagist

Movements: Dada, Surrealism

Born: September 16, 1886 - Strasbourg, Alsace

Died: June 7, 1966 - Basel, Switzerland

Quotes

"Arp was concerned with purity, with being free, being independent of everything unpleasant and limiting, and with the active, constant emission of positive energy as well as its perception."
Stephanie Poley
"Arp's hypnotic language takes us back to a lost paradise, to cosmic secrets and teaches us to understand the language of the universe."
Max Ernst
"[A] man of accomplished spirituality might see in each of Arp's sculptures a translation of the highest activities of the spirit, the very soul of the Prajna Paramita of the Hindus. And is not a leaf as authentic an image of the supreme wisdom as the imaginary face of the Buddha? What is a form if not the expression of a force that animates it, of a spirit that inhabits it? To let this force, this spirit, speak freely is the aim that Arp undertakes to achieve without going beyond it. Now it is especially difficult not to go beyond it (through the richness of the imagination, in particular), for this language must be as simple as the song of a bird, as calm as the beating of the heart, as humble as water."
Michel Seuphor
"All these transmutations, transitions, pupations are not definitive...The forms remain fluid. They move on the road of one meaning to another... This is his syntax and it has imprinted itself on our minds by its modified repetition and underlying permanence."
Eduard Trier

"Art is a fruit that grows in man like a fruit on a plant or a child in its mother's womb."

Synopsis

Something of a one-man movement, Jean Arp could (and did) make anything into art. Best-known for his biomorphic sculptures, and one of the most versatile creative minds of the early twentieth century, he fashioned sculptures out of plaster, stone and bronze, and also expressed himself in paintings, drawings, collages and poems. His approach to form, often referred to as organic abstraction, was remarkably consistent: his wavy lines suggested plants, body parts and other natural motifs, while remaining entirely abstract. Like an extraterrestrial on earth for the very first time, Arp's genius was in presenting visual information as if he is first seeing it. Transformation, growth, fecundity, and metamorphosis are among the dominant themes in his work.

Key Ideas

Arp's work is non-representational, yet firmly rooted in nature. His most abstract compositions suggest organic forms. This keeps the viewer curious, and provides a consistent framework for satisfying the eye.
One of the first artists to make randomness and chance part of the work, Arp saw chance as a collaborator in his process. This was a game-changer in the visual arts. Until then, Western artists had striven for a skilled level of control.
Rather than beginning with a subject (as artists had done for years), Arp generated the form first, and titled his works after they were completed. In this way, he sought to minimize the intervention of the conscious mind.
Arp is a transitional figure. As one of the founders of Dada, and subsequently an active participant in Surrealism, his work forms a link between these two major movements of the early twentieth century.

Most Important Art

Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance (1916-17)
One of Arp's earliest "chance collages," this composition demonstrates his signature technique of tearing paper into rough shapes and dropping them onto a larger sheet, and then pasting them where they happened to fall. However, if we look carefully at this composition, what are the "chances" that pieces of paper would fall this way? They are relatively evenly spaced and aligned with the frame, gently guided by the artist into an unfussy, yet harmonious composition. Even if Arp was not entirely willing to relinquish control over the process, this idea was incredibly radical for the period. One of the first attempts to engage the element of chance in a work of art, it demonstrates Arp's commitment to the ideal of chaos, a hallmark of Dada.
Torn-and-pasted paper on blue-gray paper - Museum of Modern Art, New York
More Art Works


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Biography

Childhood and Education

A restless thinker and a nomad, Arp was born into circumstances of uncertainty that shaped his path as an artist. Neither fully French nor fully German, the artist referred to himself as "Jean" when speaking French, and "Hans" when speaking German. Born Hans Peter Wilhelm Arp in 1886 in Alsace (still part of Germany at the time), he began studying art in his home town of Strasbourg, transferred to Weimar, completed his schooling in Paris and by 1911, had co-founded the first modern art alliance in Switzerland, Der Moderne Bund. With Der Moderne Bund, he worked for a brief period with Wassily Kandinsky and Der Blaue Reiter group in Munich, but soon returned to Paris where he hobnobbed with Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Sonia and Robert Delaunay, as well as Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacob.

Early Period

Hans Arp Biography

Fleeing the horrors of World War I, Arp moved to Zürich, where he helped found the Dada movement at the international and independent art space founded by two poets (Sally Hemmings and Hugo Ball) whose stated aim was to create chaos. It was here, among the broad-minded international audience that best suited his temperament, that he found his niche. Like Arp himself, Dada was international and interdisciplinary. Inspired by the general mood of chaos, randomness and nonsense, he began making "chance collages" --scraps of paper dropped at random onto a larger sheet and pasted where they fell. He was tremendously productive during these years, focusing on creating collages and tapestries, often in collaboration with Sophie Taeuber, and crafted wooden reliefs with layered biomorphic forms. As an ambassador of the Dada movement, in 1918 Arp recruited a like-minded circle of artists in Berlin -- Hannah Höch, Raoul Hausmann and Kurt Schwitters, to join the Dada movement. At the dawn of the 1920s, he became a published writer in a variety of magazines, including Merz, Mécano, De Stijl, and La Révolution Surréaliste. In 1922 he married his friend, soul mate and collaborator Tauber, who from then on went by Tauber-Arp. The two continued to collaborate until her early and tragic death.

In 1925 Arp was among the co-founders of another major movement: Surrealism. His work appeared alongside that of Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Man Ray, André Masson, and Joan Miró in the first Surrealist exhibition at the Galerie Pierre in Paris. At this time, Arp began to enjoy significant commercial success. In 1926 he received a major commission to redesign the interior of the Aubette, a historic dance hall, a project he completed with Tauber-Arp and Theo van Doesburg and which, when reopened in 2006, was hailed by a reviewer in as the "Sistine Chapel of abstract art". By the end of the 1920s, fully immersed in French Surrealist circles, Arp had had his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Surréaliste in Paris, become a French citizen, and settled in Clamart, a town outside of Paris.

Mature Period

Hans Arp Photo

The 1930s were an extraordinarily prolific period for Arp, who was at the height of his creative powers during this decade. "By the middle and later 1930s," James Thrall Soby noted, "Arp had reached his full stature as a sculptor in the round." In 1937 his sculptures were included in two major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York: Cubism and Abstract Art and Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism. Arp continued his work in other mediums, however, including torn paper pieces (Papiers dechirés), and published his poems even more frequently in French Surrealist journals such as Minotaure and Le Surréalisme au Service de la Revolution. A staunch supporter not only of Surrealism, but also abstraction, he helped found two international organizations in support of abstract art (Cercle et Carré and Abstraction Création) and joined a third in Switzerland, Allianz. In 1940 he once again fled the German occupation, this time to Grasse, in the South of France. At the end of 1942, tragedy struck: Taeuber-Arp died tragically of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, due to a malfunctioning stove at a friend's house in Zürich, where the couple was staying. The death of his wife and collaborator plunged Arp into a deep depression from which he did not emerge until the end of the decade. He withdrew from the public and focused primarily on poetry and a catalogue raisonne of Tauber-Arp's oeuvre. When World War II ended, he returned to Clamart and began making sculpture again, and by the late 1940s, a new woman had entered his life: Marguerite Hagenbach, a collector and friend who had been taking care of his correspondence and other administrative obligations, accompanied him on his first trip to the U.S. on the occasion of the artist's solo exhibition in New York in 1949. She stayed at the Hotel Chelsea, while he stayed with the Austrian artist and architect Frederick Kiesler, but it is clear that the two were already a couple, though they would not marry for another decade. Arp's growing reputation in the U.S. sparked the interest of architects, including Walter Gropius, who arranged for Arp to receive the commission to create a large-scale relief sculpture for the Harvard Graduate Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A year later, in 1953, Arp executed his first monumental sculpture, Cloud Shepherd, for the University of Caracas in Venezuela.

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Hans Arp Biography Continues

Late Period

Hans Arp Portrait

Arp continued to work with almost superhuman energy throughout the last decade of his life. By the mid-1950s, his fame was international. He received the prestigious Grand Prize for Sculpture at La Biennale di Venezia in 1956. Not one to rest on his laurels, the artist kept moving, always thinking bigger and organizing major solo exhibitions and public works. Among the triumphs of his final decade were two major retrospectives (at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris in 1958 and1962, respectively), and three large-scale reliefs (for the Paris branch of UNESCO, for the University of Caracas, and for the University of Applied Sciences in Braunschweig). Failing health prevented him from traveling after 1958, and in 1959 he finally married Marguerite Hagenbach, his longtime companion. Together they bought a property, Ronco dei Fiori in Locarno, Switzerland, which is still owned by the Arp foundation. Arp suffered a heart attack in Basel on June 7, 1966 and passed away shortly afterward, leaving behind him a legacy that continues to shape the history of art.


Legacy

Arp made his imprint on a staggering array of disciplines, from sculpture and architecture to literature and mid-century modern furniture. As a co-founder of the Dada movement, his organically-inspired sculptures in the first Surrealist exhibition in 1925, played an integral role in linking the two movements, and shaping the future of Surrealism. His poetry (in particular, his random word play) inspired both Dada and Surrealist poets, most notably Tristan Tzara and Guillaume Apollinaire. He also inspired a diverse range of visual artists within the Dada and Surrealist circle, first and foremost among them Sophie Taeuber-Arp, who became his most valued collaborator. Reverberations of his biomorphic sculpture are visible in designs for tables and chairs by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, two influential architects of the twentieth century.

More broadly, it was not simply Arp's biomorphism (abstract references to nature) that made him a major player on the twentieth-century stage. He was a pioneer in randomizing the results of art. This is perhaps his greatest contribution, inspiring numerous movements, including Dada (in which chance generated an aesthetic of chaos) Surrealism (in which chance was a means for exploring the unconscious) and Abstract Expressionism (in which chance became a mode of gestural expression).

Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Hans Arp
Interactive chart with Hans Arp's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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Artists

Constantin Brancusi
Pablo Picasso
Wassily Kandinsky

Friends

Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Max Ernst
Hans Richter
Kurt Schwitters
Max Bill

Movements

Der Blaue Reiter
Die Brücke
Dada
Cubism
De Stijl
Hans Arp
Hans Arp
Years Worked: 1910s - 1966

Artists

Joan Miró
Henry Moore
Barbara Hepworth
Isamu Noguchi

Friends

Tristan Tzara
Joan Miró

Movements

Minimalism
Bauhaus
Modern Sculpture

Content compiled and written by Stephanie Buhmann

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Stephanie Buhmann
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
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Useful Resources on Hans Arp

Books
Websites
Articles
Videos
The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.
biography
Arp

By James Thrall Soby

Jean Arp

By Carola Giedion-Welcker

Hans Arp: Sculpture 1957-1966

By Eduard Trier

The Early Sculpture of Arp

By Margherita Andreotti

Glimpses of Jean Arp's World

By Saskia de Rothschild
New York Times
February 14, 2013

Dada
Dada
Dada
Dada was an artistic and literary movement that emerged in 1916. It arose in reaction to World War I, and the nationalism and rationalism that many thought had led to the War. Influenced by several avant-gardes - Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, and Expressionism - its output was wildly diverse, ranging from performance art to poetry, photography, sculpture, painting and collage. Emerging first in Zurich, it spread to cities including Berlin, Hanover, Paris, New York and Cologne.
ArtStory: Dada
Surrealism
Surrealism
Surrealism
Perhaps the most influential avant-garde movement of the century, Surrealism was founded in Paris in 1924 by a small group of writers and artists who sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination. Much influenced by Freud, they believed that the conscious mind repressed the power of the imagination. Influenced also by Marx, they hoped that the psyche had the power to reveal the contradictions in the everyday world and spur on revolution.
ArtStory: Surrealism
Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky
A member of the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter, and later a teacher at the Bauhaus, Kandinsky is best known for his pioneering breakthrough into expressive abstraction in 1913. His work prefigures that of the American Abstract Expressionists.
ArtStory: Wassily Kandinsky
Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani was a Jewish-Itailan painter working in Paris from 1906 onwards. His unique style was influenced by Post-Impressionism, Brancusi and Cézanne, and featured ovaloid faces, elongated forms, and the use of brushed, modulated color fields.
ArtStory: Amedeo Modigliani
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Picasso dominated European painting in the first half of the last century, and remains perhaps the century's most important, prolifically inventive, and versatile artist. Alongside Georges Braque, he pioneered Cubism. He also made significant contributions to Surrealist painting and media such as collage, welded sculpture, and ceramics.
ArtStory: Pablo Picasso
Sonia Delaunay
Sonia Delaunay
Sonia Delaunay
Sonia Delauney with her husband Robert Delauney, began the Orphism art movement during the pre-War period, characterized by its use of strong color palettes and geometric, abstract forms. Delaunay's work also popularly incorporated the use of fabric, furniture design and clothing.
ArtStory: Sonia Delaunay
Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay was a French avant-garde painter. Early in his career he was associated with the Expressionist group The Blue Rider along with Kandinsky and Klee. Delaunay's singular style is referred to as Orphism; an approach that combines visual elements of Cubism, Expressionism and figurative abstraction.
ArtStory: Robert Delaunay
Guillaume Apollinaire
Guillaume Apollinaire
Guillaume Apollinaire
Guillaume Apollinaire was a French writer and art critic who in the early twentieth century was a member of the avant-garde group of artists based in the Montparnasse community of Paris, which included Picasso, André Breton and Henri Rousseau. He is credited with coining the term "Surrealism."
Guillaume Apollinaire
Max Jacob
Max Jacob
Max Jacob
Max Jacob, born in 1876, was a French poet, writer, painter, and critic. Max Jacob is regarded as an important link between the Symbolists and the Surrealists. His writings include the novel Saint Matorel (1911), the verses Le laboratoire central (1921), and Le défense de Tartuffe (1919).
Max Jacob
Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Sophie Taeuber-Arp was a Swiss artist, painter, sculptor, and dancer who is considered to be one of the most important artists of geometric abstraction of the twentieth century. Arp was married to Jean Arp, the major Dada artist, and the two worked together until her early death.
ArtStory: Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Hannah Höch
Hannah Höch
Hannah Höch
Hannah Hoch was a German-born Dada artist. She and Raoul Hausmann were among the first artists to work in photomontage. Hoch is most famous for her works dating from the Weimar years, most notably 1919's 'Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany,' which critiqued Weimar Germany.
ArtStory: Hannah Höch
Raoul Hausmann
Raoul Hausmann
Raoul Hausmann
Raoul Hausmann was an Austrian artist and writer. He was a key figure in the Berlin Dada movement and on January 22, 1918 delivered his 'First Dada Speech in Germany.' Hausmann and Hannah Hoch were among the first artists to work in photomontage.
Raoul Hausmann
Kurt Schwitters
Kurt Schwitters
Kurt Schwitters
Kurt Schwitters was a German artist who was particularly influential in the development of Dada movement and his own offshoot of Dada that he called Merz. Schwitters was heavily involved in the international avant-garde, with artists like El Lissitzky, Hans Arp, and Tristan Tzara.
ArtStory: Kurt Schwitters
Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico was a Greek-Italian painter and sculptor commonly associated with Surrealism. Initially discovered by Picasso and Apollinaire in France, de Chirico's best known Surrealist paintings incorporated metaphysical subject matter and sculptural still-life. Instead of land- or cityscapes, de Chirico's art is more emblematic of a dreamscape.
ArtStory: Giorgio de Chirico
Max Ernst
Max Ernst
Max Ernst
Max Ernst was a German Dadaist and Surrealist whose paintings and collages combine dream-like realism, automatic techniques, and eerie subject matter.
ArtStory: Max Ernst
Paul Klee
Paul Klee
Paul Klee
The Swiss-born painter Paul Klee worked in a variety of styles, including Expressionism, geometric abstraction, and collage. His most famous works have a mystical quality and make use of linear and pictorial symbols.
ArtStory: Paul Klee
Man Ray
Man Ray
Man Ray
Man Ray was an American artist in Paris whose photograms, objects, drawings, and other works played an important role in Dada, Surrealism, modern photography, and avant-garde art at large.
ArtStory: Man Ray
André Masson
André Masson
André Masson
André Masson was a French painter and one of the pioneers of Surrealism. His practice of "automatic drawing" consisted of methodically supressing his conscious mind while creating art, thus allowing Masson to work from his subconscious. He was also known to work after long periods of forced hunger and sleep deprivation, resulting in quasi-hallucinatory images.
André Masson
Joan Miró
Joan Miró
Joan Miró
Active in Paris from the 1920s onward, and influenced by Surrealism, Miró developed a style of biomorphic abstraction which blended abstract figurative motifs, large fields of color, and primitivist symbols. This style would be an important inspiration for many Abstract Expressionists.
ArtStory: Joan Miró
Walter Gropius
Walter Gropius
Walter Gropius
The German architect Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus school of art and design in Weimar Germany. Along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, he is regarded as one of the pioneers of modern architecture.
Walter Gropius
Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara was a Romanian and French poet, playwright, and avant-garde performer who played a key role in the development and founding of Dada. A proponent of pure automatic techniques, he had an at-times contentious relationship with the Surrealism's direction in Paris.
ArtStory: Tristan Tzara
Constantin Brancusi
Constantin Brancusi
Constantin Brancusi
Constantin Brancusi, a Romanian artist working in Paris, was one of the founders of modern sculpture. His abstracted animals, portrait busts, and totem-like figures revolutionized the traditional relationship between the sculpture and its base.
ArtStory: Constantin Brancusi
Hans Richter
Hans Richter
Hans Richter
Hans Richter was a German-born American painter, graphic artist and experimental most importantly, filmmaker. Associated with the German Expressionist group The Blue Rider, and later with the Dada movement and De Stijl, Richter's life work is renowned for spanning much of the twentieth-century modern canon.
ArtStory: Hans Richter
Max Bill
Max Bill
Max Bill
Max Bill was a Swiss architect, artist, typeface designer, industrial designer, and graphic designer. After an apprenticeship as a silversmith, Bill took up studies at the Bauhaus under many teachers including Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee from 1927 to 1929. He went on to become an influencial educator and artist.
Max Bill
Der Blaue Reiter
Der Blaue Reiter
Der Blaue Reiter
Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) was a group of Expressionist painters in Munich, Germany consisting principally of Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky,Germans Auguste Macke, and Franz Marc. Key interests among them were the aesthetics of primitivism and spiritualism, as well as growing trends in Fauvism and Cubism, which led Kandinsky, chief among the Expressionist artists, to experiment more with abstract art.
ArtStory: Der Blaue Reiter
Die Brücke
Die Brücke
Die Brücke
Die Brücke (The Bridge) was a group of German Expressionist artists that banded together in Dresden in 1905. The group, which includes artists such as Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Emil Nolde, had a major impact on the evolution of modern art in the twentieth century and the creation of Expressionism. Die Bruke artists' used bold colors to depicts gritty scene of city life.
ArtStory: Die Brücke
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907-1911, and it continued to be highly influential long after its decline. This classic phase has two stages: 'Analytic', in which forms seem to be 'analyzed' and fragmented; and 'Synthetic', in which pre-existing materials such as newspaper and wood veneer are collaged to the surface of the canvas.
ArtStory: Cubism
De Stijl
De Stijl
De Stijl
Founded in the Netherlands in 1917, De Stijl was an avant-garde dedicated to isolating a single visual style that would be appropriate to all aspects of modern life, from art to design to architecture. Taking its name from a periodical, its most famous practitioners were Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian, whose mature art employed geometric blocks of primary colors and vertical and horizontal lines.
ArtStory: De Stijl
Henry Moore
Henry Moore
Henry Moore
Henry Moore was an English sculptor and artist. He was best known for his abstract monumental bronze sculptures. His forms are usually abstractions of the human figure, typically depicting reclining figures, or even more commonly, the mother and child theme.
ArtStory: Henry Moore
Barbara Hepworth
Barbara Hepworth
Barbara Hepworth
Barbara Hepworth was an English sculptor. She helped develop modern sculpture, along with her contemporaries Henry Moore and Naum Gabo. She won a scholarship and studied at the Leeds School of Art in 1920, where she met Moore.
ArtStory: Barbara Hepworth
Isamu Noguchi
Isamu Noguchi
Isamu Noguchi
Isamu Noguchi was a Japanese-American modern artist. best known for his organic, biomorphic sculpture works, Noguchi was also a furniture designer and landscape artist.
ArtStory: Isamu Noguchi
Minimalism
Minimalism
Minimalism
Minimalism emerged as a movement in New York in the 1960s, its leading figures creating objects which blurred the boundaries between painting and sculpture, and were characterized by unitary, geometric forms and industrial materials. Emphasizing cool anonymity over the passionate expression of the previous generation of painters, the Minimalists attempted to avoid metaphorical associations, symbolism, and suggestions of spiritual transcendence.
ArtStory: Minimalism
Bauhaus
Bauhaus
Bauhaus
Bauhaus is a style associated with the Bauhaus school, an extremely influential art and design school in Weimar Germany that emphasized functionality and efficiency of design. Its famous faculty - including Joseph Albers and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - generally rejected distinctions between the fine and applied arts, and encouraged major advances in industrial design.
ArtStory: Bauhaus
Modern Sculpture
Modern Sculpture
Modern Sculpture
Modern sculpture emerged in the late-nineteenth century out of the collapse of the academic tradition and the exhaustion of older traditions of figurative public sculpture. It was initiated by Auguste Rodin, but it evolved throughout the twentieth century to encompass a wide variety of approaches to object-making.
Modern Sculpture
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