Jean (Hans) Arp France & Germany, 1886-1966


Jean (Hans) Arp (b. 1886, Strassburg, Germany; d. 1966, Basel, Switzerland) was a modernist sculptor and painter and a celebrated exponent of biomorphism known for his breathtaking forms inspired by the natural world. After pursuing studies in art at the École des Arts et Métiers, Strasbourg, the Kunstschule, Weimar, and the Académie Julian, Arp traveled around Europe throughout the early 1910s and became acquainted with influential artists and writers Guillaume Apollinaire, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Max Jacob, Wassily Kandinsky, and Amedeo Modigliani. In 1915, Arp moved to Zurich, where he participated in Dada activities at the Cabaret Voltaire with leading cultural figures including Hugo Ball, Marcel Janco, and Tristan Tzara. In Zurich, he met Sophie Taeuber, who became his wife and a frequent collaborator. In 1925, Arp was included in the landmark first exhibition of the Surrealist group, held at Galerie Pierre, Paris. Though the Surrealists lauded Arp’s often bistable imagery at once abstract and evocative of organic matter, the artist soon broke with their circle and exhibited beginning in 1930 with the Constructivist group Cercle et Carré, who aimed to bridge the divide between the human and geometric realms. In 1931, along with artists Auguste Herbin, Alberto Giacometti, and Jean Hélion, Arp founded Abstraction-Création, a group whose shared creative vision aimed to promote abstract painting and sculpture in a rejection of the narrative illusionism of Surrealism in the 1930s. In 1926, Arp settled in Meudon, France, which became his primary residence save for a four-year period of exile in Zurich during World War II. Awarded the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the 1954 Venice Biennale, Arp occupies a central role in the modernist canon and has exerted a lasting influence on subsequent generations of artists. His oeuvre has been the subject of major retrospectives held by important international institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.