This event is supported by the European cultural Season, organized during the French Presidency of the European Union (July 1st – Dec. 31st, 2008)
© 2008 - Les Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg
Born to a German cigar manufacturer and an Alsatian mother on September 16th in Strasbourg.
As an adolescent, he keeps company with a circle of painters reunited around the artist Georges Ritleng, his first drawing teacher. He also meets the writer René Schickelé, director of the magazine Der Sturmer. He enrolls at the Ecole des Arts et Metiers in Strasbourg for one year and then the Academy of Fine Arts in Weimar. In 1906 the Arps move to Weggis, near Lucerne in Switzerland. Jean attends the Académie Julian when spending time abroad in Paris and shows his work at the Bernheim Jeune Gallery.
Arp creates the Moderner Bund in Lucerne where he organizes an exhibition uniting the works of Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso…
After collaborating in the Blaue Reiter Almanac, Arp leaves for Berlin where he is employed at Herwarth Walden’s gallery Der Sturm. In 1914 he returns to Paris fleeing German mobilization before seeking refuge in Switzerland, followed by Ascona, and finally Zurich where he meets Sophie Taeuber.
Arp inaugurates the Cabaret Voltaire in 1916 along with Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Richard Huelsenbeck, Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco, giving birth to the dada movement. He then participates in numerous group activities: exhibitions, publications, conferences, readings and events. He produces reliefs, collages, and embroidery with Sphie Taeuber. In 1920 he participates in the Erste Internationale Dada-Messe at the Otto Burchard Gallery in Berlin and publishes Die Wolkenpumpe and Der Vogel Selbdritt. That same year, in Cologne, he and Max Ernst make collages together.
After a period of frequent travel to Rome, Berlin and Weimar, Arp finally settles in Paris, drawing closer to the surrealist circle. He develops a vocabulary of biomorphic forms for his reliefs.
Arp and Sophie return to Strasbourg where the Horn brothers commission the decoration of the leisure complex the Aubette, inaugurated in 1928. Along with the architect Theo van Doesburg, they create what will become the most important collection of abstract decorative art. In 1929 he begins work on his Constellation.
Arp makes his first plaster, wood, stone and clay sculptures in the round, associated with poetic titles. He joins up with the groups «Circle and Square» and «Abstraction-Creation». In 1932 he produces his first torn papers. He takes part in well-known exhibitions especially in New York at the Museum of Modern Art directed by Alfred Barr. When war is declared he chooses to adopt his French first name.
Fleeing the Occupation, the Arp couple takes refuge in Dordogne with Gabrielle Picabia and Cesar Dormela before Peggy Guggenheim welcomes them in Annecy, followed by Alberto Magnelli in Grasse. The couple returns to Zurich in November 1942.
Sophie Taeuber dies of asphyxiation from the fumes of a stove at Max Bill’s home in Zurich. Devastated, Arp stops sculpting for four years and retreats to a Swiss monastery. In 1944 Peggy Guggenheim gives him an exhibition in her New York gallery Art of This Century. After the war, he returns to his workshop in Meudon and begins a relationship with Marguerite Hagenbach. The Denise René Gallery shows his work for the first time in 1946. Once again very active, especially as a sculptor, Arp is the object of numerous exhibitions across the world and in particular in New York, which he visits for the first time in 1949.
Back in Europe, Arp travels to Greece, incorporating classical themes into his work. In Paris, he has a heart attack which considerably weakens him. In 1954 he wins First Prize in International sculpture at the biennale of Venice. In the years following, he accepts several commissions: a monumental relief for the Caracas City University, a decorative mural for the Palace of Unesco in Paris. The first serious catalogue of his work appears in 1957.
Arp marries Marguerite and buys a villa in Locarno-Solduno, his last place of residence. He travels to Egypt and Israel where he participates in an artist kibbutz. Jean Cassou, director of the National Museum of Modern Art organizes a traveling retrospective that shows in Basle, Stockholm, Copenhagen and London. He receives numerous awards and distinctive honors. Hans Jean Arp succumbs to a final, fatal heart attack on June 7th 1966.