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Artists Hans Arp
Hans Arp Photo

Hans Arp

French-German Sculptor, Painter, and Collagist

Movements and Styles: Dada, Surrealism

Born: September 16, 1886 - Strasbourg, Alsace

Died: June 7, 1966 - Basel, Switzerland

Hans Arp Timeline


"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."

Hans Arp Signature


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-20th 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-20th century.


Hans Arp Photo

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.

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Hans Arp Biography Continues

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.
View Influences Chart


Constantin BrâncușiConstantin Brâncuși
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Wassily KandinskyWassily Kandinsky

Personal Contacts

Sophie Taeuber-ArpSophie Taeuber-Arp
Max ErnstMax Ernst
Hans RichterHans Richter
Kurt SchwittersKurt Schwitters
Max BillMax Bill


Der Blaue ReiterDer Blaue Reiter
Die BrückeDie Brücke
De StijlDe Stijl

Influences on Artist
Hans Arp
Hans Arp
Years Worked: 1910s - 1966
Influenced by Artist


Joan MiróJoan Miró
Henry MooreHenry Moore
Barbara HepworthBarbara Hepworth
Isamu NoguchiIsamu Noguchi

Personal Contacts

Tristan TzaraTristan Tzara
Joan MiróJoan Miró


Modern SculptureModern Sculpture

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Stephanie Buhmann

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Ruth Epstein

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Stephanie Buhmann
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Ruth Epstein
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