Jean Arp

Art is a fruit that grows in man, like a fruit on a plant, or a child in its mother’s womb, once commented Jean Arp–a remarkable twentieth-century sculptor, painter and poet associated with and a forefather of the Dada and Surrealist movements. The avant-garde artist was born on September 16, 1887 in Strasbourg, France, where he studied at the Ecole des Arts et Mtiers. In 1905, he transferred to the Weimar Academy and then to Paris at the Acadmie Julian in 1908, and subsequent to graduation resumed his painting in Weggis, Switzerland in isolation.

By 1912, Jean Arp had become associated with the Blaue Reiter, or Blue Rider, a group of Expressionist artists in Munich, where he exhibited semi-figurative drawings and became well-acquainted with fellow artist Wassily Kandinsky. In 1913, he exhibited with another group of Expressionists at the first Hebrstsalon–or Autumn Salon, an art exhibition–in Berlin. Aware of the developments within the French avant-garde through his contacts with such artists as Apollinaire, Max Jacob and Sonia and Robert Delaunay in 1914, Arp presented his first abstracts and paper cutouts in Zrich in 1915 and arranged his first shallow wooden reliefs and compositions of string nailed to canvas.

In 1915, the art of Jean Arp consisted of abstract and angularly patterned tapestries and drawings, but soon matured as he became the co-founder of the revolutionary Dadaist school of artists in Zrich, Switzerland with Tristan Tzara and Hugo Ball. His familiar abstract and curvilinear forms debuted in 1917, and in 1919 he continued his Dadaist portrayals with Ernst in Cologne before participating in the Berlin Dada exhibition of 1920.

Jean Arp married Sophie Tauber in 1922, during a period where he was most notable for his painted wooden bas-reliefs and humorous cut-cardboard constructions. He settled with his wife at Meudon in 1927, when he participated in the Surrealist movement and had his first one-man exhibition at the Galerie Surraliste in Paris. He then parted with Surrealism to become a co-founder of Abstraction-Creation in 1931, when his characteristic organic forms became more severe and geometrical.

In the 1930s, Jean Arp began to work in freestanding sculpture, carving and molding a variety of substances. An example of his smooth, biomorphic forms is the marble Human Concretion, 1935, located in the Muse National d’Art Moderne in Paris. Arp was tenacious in correcting art critics as to the nature of his sculptures; he insisted that his pieces were concrete rather than abstract, since they occupied space, and that art was a natural generation of form–a fruit that grows in man, as he had stated.

Jean Arp visited the United States in 1949 and 1950 to finish a monumental wood and metal relief for Harvard University; in 1958, he composed a mural relief for the UNESCO Building in Paris. He was awarded the international prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale in 1954 and the 1964 Pittsburgh International. Arp died on June 7, 1966 in Solduno, Switzerland, survived by his second wife, Marguerite Arp-Hagenbach. A dominant personality within abstract art, Dada and Surrealism, his reliefs and sculptures have had a decisive influence upon the sculpture of this century.

Bibliography Arts and Painting