Jean (Hans) Arp
Olympia (Relief), 1955
Galerie Proarta, Zürich.
Galerie d’Art Moderne, Basel.
Private Collection, Switzerland.
Their sale; Koller Auktionen, Zürich, 21 June 2013, lot 3243.
Anon. sale; Christie’s, New York, 13 Nov. 2015, lot 1357.
Galerie Berès, Paris.
Private Collection, Miami, FL.
M.S. Feigel, Jean Arp: Reliefs, Galerie d’art moderne, Basel, 1968, n.p., no. 9 (illus.)
H. von Bernd Rau, Hans Arp: Die Reliefs, Oeuvre-Katalog, Stuttgart, 1981, no. 479b (illus. p. 230).
Basel, Galerie d’art moderne, Jean Arp: Reliefs, 3 May – 15 June 1968, no. 9.
Arp was born in Strasbourg (Alsace-Lorraine) in 1886, fifteen years after newly united Germany had taken the region from France by force. Arp’s loyalties were divided by more than geography: his mother was French and his father was German. It was for this reason that he called himself “Jean” when speaking French and “Hans” when speaking German. He did not change his name mid-way through his life, as some scholars have claimed.
After a technical education at Strasbourg’s École des Arts et Métiers, Arp moved to Paris and subsequently to Weimar (Germany) where he studied in the Kunstschule. He completed his artistic training at the Académie Julian in Paris. As a young artist he met Kandinsky and the Blaue Ritter group in Munich. He spent the war years in Switzerland, after feigning mental illness to escape conscription. He was a founding member of the Dada movement in Zurich and, later, in Cologne. It was also in Switzerland that Arp met his most significant collaborator, Sophie Taeuber, who introduced him to the use of unconventional materials and techniques. The two married in 1922.
As a founding member of Dada, Arp believed that reason and the weight of tradition had become too dominant in modern society. By using alternative methods of production, he hoped to be able to escape this dominance. Arp also wished to eliminate all signs of the artist’s hand, thereby allowing his pieces better to reflect reality. For this reason, when assembling sculptural reliefs, Arp would order the individual components from a craftsman, purposefully leaving his instructions vague. The workman therefore played a considerable part in the finished piece.