Biography of Jean Hans Arp (1887-1966)

Jean Hans Arp.

Painter, sculptor and writer Alsatian, one of the creators of Dadaism, born in Strasbourg on September 16, 1887 and died in Basel on June 7, 1966.

Between 1904 and 1907 he/she studied art at schools in his town, Weimar and Paris. In 1908 he/she returned with his family to Weggis (Switzerland), which is dedicated to studying literature, philosophy, and modern art. His first abstract paintings date from 1910. To visit the following year to Kandinsky in Munich and was briefly associated with the Blaue Reiter (see Expressionism).

In 1914 he/she returned to Paris and met Apollinaire, Modigliani, and the Delaunay (Robert and Sonia) of who you impress much the Orphica paintings. Around 1914 he/she has already done his first reliefs, made with overlapping layers of wood; in some, like Stag, his mature style, which he/she described later as concretion, is already present in the essentials. Its characteristics are simplicity, asymmetry, use of abstract organic forms, spontaneity, continuous contours, clarity and economy of execution, freedom in composition and direction of movement.

Set to neutral Switzerland, in Curiche in 1915, where he/she made collages and met his future wife, dancer and painter Sofie Taeuber. Both join the Cabaret Voltaire from Hugo Ball in 1916, the embryo of Dadaism in Zurich, movement in which participate very actively. In 1919 he/she collaborated with Max Ernst in Cologne in Dada events. ARP is purely Dadaist in its contempt for the European artistic tradition; experimenting with materials and different techniques, using the operator in his poems, and random in their collages. You think that an abstract art that uses a vocabulary of primitive organic forms may have a regenerative function and may, in fact, equivalent to the same nature; works as Bosque, in 1916, are an example of this.

In 1922 he/she participated in the Congress of the constructivists in Weimar, shortly after initiating its collaboration in various magazines (Merz, Mecano, of Stilj), in 1925 he/she settled in Meudon, on the outskirts of Paris, where he/she lives the rest of his days, except for the war years. It relates the surrealists without sacrificing their independence. Fruit of this relationship is their participation in 1925 in the first exhibition of the surrealist group in Paris Pierre Gallery.

His first reliefs are monochrome wood and 1914; two years later he/she introduced color as an expression of his desire to create an alternative to painting and sculpture. Applying flat color, without references to the brushwork, is of the same sign that its rejection by the modeling and the evidence of the hand of the artist; use the color for expressive, symbolic, decorative and constructive purposes. It is considered their forms simplified as a symbol of natural evolutionary processes. For Arp, his works have an intrinsic power and reach solutions organic, more subject to the laws of chance than a conscious artistic manipulation.

In 1931 adheres to the Abstraccion-creacion group and begins to make free-standing sculptures, that are more suggestive than the reliefs in terms of a certain organicism vegetal, animal or human.

Moved to New York in 1949 due to a solo exhibition at the Buchholz Gallery, and the following year, charge you the wall reliefs for the Harvard Graduate Center. In 1954, gets the prize international of sculpture of the Venice Biennale. In 1958, a major retrospective of his work takes place at the Museum of modern art in New York; the second takes place in 1962, at the National Museum of modern art in Paris.

Literary work

His first literary attempts date from the years 1908 to 1910, and are attempts to type very subject to the trends of the time, neo-romantic and Symbolist published in the expressionist magazine Der Sturm. From 1915, he/she worked with what would later become his wife, the artist Sophie Täuber. In 1916, he/she founded the Dada movement together with Hugo Ball at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich.

In 1920 appeared die texts collection wolkenpumpe (clouds pump). Their "automatic"texts emerge from the grouping of words and images in chains of almost paradoxical associations that seek to articulate the subconscious hidden by rationality. Dadaist poems which he/she wrote in collaboration with Tristan Tzara are "collages" of linguistic games and impossible to register under a preset Canyon associations. The linguistic experiments which practiced in his work Der vogel selbdritt (1920), which served as a model the cycle of woodcarvings of Wassily Kandinsky Klänge (tones, 1912), move into the space of the irrational.

In 1940 Arp fled to Grasse, in France, where after the death of his wife in 1943 tried to give continuity to the Dadaist idea. His poetry from the time of post-war (Die Engelschrift, los Ángeles, 1952 writing) is imbued with a deep melancholy; in later works (Sinnende Flammen, thoughtful flames, 1961) there is a shift towards a religion that, despite their continuous cries, suggests a glimmer of hope.


FLINT, Lucy, the Collezione Peggy Guggenheim, New York, 1983.

A Biographical Dictionary of Artists, London, Sir Lawrence Gowing Editor, 1994.