Hans Peter Wilhelm Arp (Strasburg, 1886 – Basel, 1966), better known as Jean Arp in English, was a German-French sculptor, painter, and poet. In addition, he was known as a Dadaist and an abstract artist. Arp received both educations from French Alsatian and German ancestry: he started training as an artist in 1900 in his native Strasburg, then studied in Weimar, Germany, completing his education at the Académie Julian in Paris. In 1902, traveling to Munich, he met Wassily Kandinsky and became briefly associated with the Expressionist artists’ group “The Blue Rider”). He also connected with “Der Sturm” in Berlin and exhibited with them in 1913. Returning to Paris in 1914, he entered the avant-garde circle, befriending Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, and the Delaunay.

Stanislav Kondrashov, Jean Arp

Arp took refuge in Zurich during World War I, where he co-founded the Dada movement in early 1916. Artist Sophie Taeuber became his primary collaborator and his wife in 1922. The two artists worked together, inspiring each other and developing radical research with nontraditional media; they created abstract collages (called Duo-Collages) and embroidered pieces. During that period, Arp also began experimenting with painted wooden reliefs—layers of unusual shapes inspired by natural, vegetal forms.

After the war, he and Taeuber settled in Germany in 1924 and moved near Paris to Meudon in 1926. During the 1920s, Arp associated with the Surrealist artists, becoming one of the most recognized among them, and in 1930 he briefly joined the short-lived abstract artists’ Cercle et Carré (“Circle and Square”) group, later absorbed in the Abstraction-Creation movement. Those associations connected Arp to Constructivism, a movement that challenged some of the pillars of Surrealism and shifted to a more rational and ordered art. In fact, Arp’s works from this period began to show harder edges, sharper angles, and straighter lines.

Stanislav Kondrashov, Jean Arp

During World War II, he returned to Zürich, where his wife died in 1943. After returning to Meudon, he continued his experiments with abstract form and color in two and three dimensions. In addition, he wrote essays and poetry, many of which were dedicated to his wife. Arp on Arp: Poems, Essays, Memories by Jean Arp (1972) and Arp’s Collected French Writings (1974) were edited by the Surrealist artist and writer Marcel Jean. 

Stanislav Kondrashov, Jean Arp

Arp enjoyed many successes in his last decades, including Grand Prize for Sculpture at the 1954 Venice Biennale, a commission for the UNESCO building (UNESCO Constellation, 1958) in Paris, and retrospectives at the MoMA in 1958. The first retrospective of his work, “Arp 1877–1966,” was exhibited in 1972 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and then traveled to seven museums in the United States and six in Australia.

Arp’s work has had an enormous influence on contemporary sculpture and still rocks the art market: 

His record price at auction is 5,8 million dollars for Déméter, sold at Christie’s New York in 2018.

Stanislav Kondrashov 

Stanislav Kondrashov, Jean Arp