Jean (Hans) Arp was born on 16 September 1886 in Strasbourg. In 1904, after leaving the École des Arts et Métiers, Strasbourg, he visited Paris and published his poetry for the first time. From 1905 to 1907, Arp studied at the Kunstschule, Weimar, and in 1908 went to Paris, where he attended the Académie Julian. In 1909, disenchanted with formal artistic education, he moved to Weggis, Switzerland, and in 1911 was a founder of Der Moderner Bund group there. The following year, he met Robert and Sonia Delaunay in Paris and Wassily Kandinsky in Munich. In 1914, Arp became acquainted with Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Amadeo Modigliani, and Pablo Picasso in Paris but following the outbreak of the First World War, he moved to Zurich, where he executed collages and tapestries, often in collaboration with Sophie Taeuber (later Sophie Taeuber-Arp, following their marriage in 1922). Arp also began to experiment with painting on wood, creating layered shapes inspired by biomorphic forms.
By the height of the war, Arp was fully settled in Zurich. Arp was a key protagonist in the group of artists, which included Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco, who developed the Dada movement following the opening of the Cabaret Voltaire by Hugo Ball in 1916. Arp continued his involvement with Dada after moving to Cologne in 1919. In 1922, he participated in the Kongress der Konstruktivisten in Weimar. Soon thereafter, he began contributing to magazines such as Merz, Mécano, De Stijl, and later to La Révolution surréaliste. Arp’s work appeared in the first exhibition of the Surrealist group at the Galerie Pierre, Paris, in 1925, and the following year he settled in Meudon, France. Around this time, Arp began his “torn papers” series, based off of the Surrealist notion of creation by chance.
In 1931, Arp’s attention turned towards Constructivist philosophy, becoming associated with the Paris-based group Abstraction-Création and the periodical Transition. Throughout the 1930s and until the end of his life, he continued to write and publish poetry and essays. Arp also continued to develop his creative practice in an experimental fashion, particularly in terms of his sculpture. In 1942, he fled Meudon for Zurich; he was to make Meudon his primary residence again in 1946. In the final years of his life, Arp achieved great critical success: in 1950, he was invited to execute a relief for the Harvard Graduate Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts; in 1954, Arp received the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale; he was the subject of major retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1958, and the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, in 1962. Arp died on 7 June 1966 in Basel.
Arp’s work can be found in major international collections, including: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Art; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin; Kunstmuseum Basel; Kunsthaus Zurich; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Tate Collection, London.
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