Hans (Jean) Arp Biography

Hans (Jean) Arp




German-French sculptor, painter, printmaker and poet, Hans Arp (also called Jean Arp) was born in Alsace, Germany on September 16, 1886. He studied at the Strasbourg School of Arts and Crafts, at Weimar (1905-7) and the Academie Julian in Paris (1908).  In 1912 he went to Munich where he knew Kandinsky and exhibited semi-figurative drawings at the second Blaue Reiter exhibition in 1912, and 1913 he exhibited with the Expressionists at the first Hebrstsalon (Autumn Salon) in Berlin.

Aware of the developments within the French avant-garde, Arp exhibited his first abstracts and paper cutouts in Zurich in 1915, and began making shallow wooden reliefs and compositions of string nailed to canvas.  In 1916, he was a founder member of Dada in Zurich, and he participated in the Berlin Dada exhibition of 1920.  In Paris, Arp began to evolve his personal style, and began to experiment with automatic composition (automatism).  In 1925, he participated in the first Surrealist exhibition in Paris, before breaking with Surrealism to become a founder member of Abstraction-Creation in 1931, when his characteristic organic forms became more severe and geometrical. At a time when he began to turn towards full 3-D sculptures, Arp insisted that his sculpture was 'concrete' rather than 'abstract', since it occupied space, and that art was a natural generation of form: 'a fruit that grows in man', as he put it.

Arp visited the USA in 1949 and 1950, and completed a monumental wood and metal relief for Harvard University, and a mural relief for the UNESCO Building in Paris in 1958. He won the international prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale in 1954. A dominant personality within Dada, Surrealism and abstract art, his reliefs and sculptures have had a decisive influence upon the sculpture of this century.

Hans (Jean) Arp died on June 7, 1966 in Basel, Switzerland.