Jean (Hans) Arp
Year, Birthplace 1886, Germany
Year, Place of death 1966, Switzerland
Nationality France
The young Hans Arp (who would adopt the French version of his name in 1939) was a visitor to the studio of the painter Georges Ritleng, opposite his father’s cigar factory. Arp’s father refused to allow him to move to Paris and sent him to Weimar, where Arp discovered various modern art tendencies. Thanks to Henry van de Velde he was able to show his first paintings in 1907, at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris, alongside Henri Matisse, Paul Signac and Kees van Dongen. Arp’s move to Paris, in 1908, was not a success and it was in Switzerland, to where his family had moved in 1905, that he met artists of the avant-garde. In 1910, he founded Der Moderne Bund. In 1912, he met Wassily Kandinsky, collaborated on the Der Blaue Reiter almanac and exhibited with Kandinsky, Sonia and Robert Delaunay, Henri Le Fauconnier, Franz Marc and Paul Klee. Arp published his first poems, exhibited drawings and collages and illustrated publications. In 1913, while in Berlin, he worked at the Galerie Der Sturm. In 1914 he became acquainted with Max Ernst, in Cologne. That same year Arp returned to Paris, to escape German conscription. His paintings of the time were simplified, Cezannian cubist compitions. In 1915, his precarious situation in France forced him to take refuge in Zurich. There he met Sophie Taeuber, with whom he would marry in 1922, whose painting style was already abstract. They married in 1922. Alongside Hugo Ball, Richard Huelsenbeck, Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco and Hans Richter he helped found the Cabaret Voltaire in 1916, the birthplace of the Dada movement. Talks, recitals, spontaneous music and, later, simultaneous poems celebrated non-sense. The artists expressed their revolt against bourgeois order, the massacres of war and academic aesthetics. Art was used as a subversive tool, a way of transforming life, combating the madness of men and of rediscovering natural order. Arp created collages inspired by cubism, painted abstract compositions and produced his first dadaist reliefs. At the end of the war, he met Francis Picabia, Kurt Schwitters and Raoul Haussmann. In 1920, he joined Tristan Tzara in Paris and met André Breton, Philippe Soupault, Louis Aragon and Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes. Considered persona non grata in Switzerland, in 1925, as a result of his dadaist activities, Arp moved to Paris and was granted French nationality the following year. Ernst and Joan Miró were his neighbours at his studio in Villa des Fusains. He attended surrealist group meetings, though he steered clear of their political activities and internal disagreements. He took part in the first surrealist exhibition, at the Pierre Loeb gallery. His poems and essays were published in the La Révolution Surréaliste magazine. His first solo exhibition was held at Pierre Loeb, in 1927, and included a preface by Breton. The year before, with his wife and Theo Van Doesburg, he decorated the Palais de l’Aubette, in Strasbourg. From this date on, the couple took up residence in a house in Clamart. In spite of his relationship with the surrealists, Arp kept in contact with the abstractionists: in 1929, he joined Cercle et Carré, a movement which advocated pure abstraction, created by Michel Seuphor and Joaquín Torres-García. In 1931, he joined Abstraction-Création, a movement founded by Georges Vantongerloo and August Herbin, whose members included Františec Kupka, Alexander Calder, Piet Mondrian, Kurt Schwitters, Jean Hélion and the Delaunays. Arp separated from the group in 1934, tired of the sectarian intransigence of some members. In 1937, he became part of the Allianz movement, founded by his friend Max Bill. He began to create sculptures in the round, transposing his reliefs to three dimensions, and created collages from paper torn from his own works. In 1940, fleeing the war, Arp and Sophie Taeuber spent time in Grasse, in Alberto Magnelli’s house, with Sonia Delaunay. Unable to obtain a visa for the United States, he took refuge in Switzerland, with Max Bill, where Sophie died in an accident in 1943. In 1945, Arp returned to Clamart, dividing his time between writing, reliefs, drawing, collages, sculpture and tapestries. He now enjoyed the support of various galleries and a number of assistants helped produce his monumental works. Recognition truly arrived when he was awarded the Grand Prize at the 1954 Venice Biennale. In 1958, MoMA in New York dedicated a solo show to Arp. This was followed by a retrospective at the Musée national d’art moderne in Paris, which later toured to Basel, Stockholm, Copenhagen and London. AC