Jean (Hans) Arp

Learn about JEAN (HANS) ARP (1886-1966) artist,their past and upcoming works offered at auction at Christie's

‘I recall that as a child of eight I passionately drew in a huge book that looked like an accounting ledger. I used colored pencils. No other work, no other profession ever interested me, and in these childhood games—the exploration of unknown dream places—already augured my vocation of discovering the terra incognita of art’ (Arp, quoted in Jean (Hans) Arp, Collected French Writings: Poems, Essays, Memories, ed. M. Jean, trans. J. Neugroschel, London, 1974, p.347 ). Jean (or Hans) Arp was born in 1886 in the Alsace, a contested area with a mixed French and German population. At the outbreak of the First World War, Arp, being an Alsatian and a pacifist, went to Zurich. There he was one of the founding members of Hugo Ball’s Cabaret Voltaire, an intellectual barrage of mindlessness orchestrated by exiled artists and writers in protest against the war. Out of these revelries emerged Dada. During this period, Arp met the artist Sophie Taeuber, who became his wife and a major influence on his work, most notably the early abstract reliefs. It was during this Dada period that Arp became one of the first artists to introduce chance into his art, by dropping scraps of paper and fixing them where they fell into random collages. In 1920 Arp moved to Paris, where under André Breton’s influence, the Parisian branch of Dada evolved into Surrealism. Arp did not strictly adhere to much of the Surrealist mindset, but nonetheless saw Surrealism as an appropriate platform for his art: he was an exhibitor at the first ever Surrealist exhibition in the Galerie Pierre in 1925, and he produced illustrations for almost every Dada or Surrealist publication. An important common ground between him and the Surrealists was his great interest, almost always present in his art, of nature. Arp’s works represented, or recalled, nature as a great underlying power in life. Arp created reliefs until 1930, when his work became fully three-dimensional and his enigmatic but powerful amorphic natural forms made him a leading exponent of abstraction during the 1930s. Although Arp produced very little during the 1940s, being profoundly effected by the death of his wife, he continued developing his sculpture, sometimes paring the shapes down to a geometrical minimum, at other times creating swirling, complex structures with an increasing refinement.

Upcoming lots by this artist

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