Jean Art - A photo of the sculptor in his studio - Image via tmlartscom and use taeuber terms

Jean Arp

France 1886 - 1966

Sculpture, Surrealism, Painting, Dada

Jean Arp
Jean Arp
October 26, 2016
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Easily considered to be one of those rare one-man movement occasions in art history, Jean Arp was a pioneer of what we now call abstract expression. His impressive paintings, reliefs and sculptures introduced many innovative thoughts, such as the incorporation of waste materials and spontaneity as integral components of the artistic process. Furthermore, Arp explored the potentials behind unique compositional relationships that emerge from the inadvertent arrangements of elements within the piece’s structure. This resulted in Jean’s famed biomorphic sculptures which were inspired by organic material and the human figure despite being wrapped in a heavily abstract cloth. Because of such an approach, Arp’s art was strongly relying on the concepts of transformation, growth and metamorphosis.

Ernst Taeuber was a sculptor but he also set the terms of making collages
Jean Arp – Constellation with Five White and Two Black Forms – Image via

Before Zürich

Jean Arp was born during the year of 1886, in the city of Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine region in the northeastern France. His mother was a native French woman and his father was of German origin, a mixed heritage which often brought young Arp in a situation of not being sure if his real name was Jean or Hans. This was eventually settled by the French law following the end of World War I when it was decided that the young man’s one and true name must be Jean. Whilst still in his teen years, Arp went to Paris where he published his poetry for the first time in 1904, announcing his arrival to the creative scene of the City of Lights. For the next three years, he studied at the Kunstschule in Weimar, but yet again left for Paris in 1908. There, he studied at the famed Académie Julian. While still in the French capital, Arp was a founder and a member of the Moderne Bund in Lucerne, a group of young avant-garde artists who exhibited occasionally between the years of 1911 and 1913. Somewhere during that time, Jean met Wassily Kandinsky, the influential Russian painter and art theorist. Inspired by the views on art the Russian presented him with, Arp decided he would seek similar expression in his own work[1]. Through his friendship with Kandinsky, Jean also met the likes of Henri Matisse and Robert Delaunay. In 1913, Jean was pressured by the rising tension between the Europe’s nations. Feeling that a war may occur at one point, scared Arp moved to Switzerland in order to take advantage of the Swiss neutrality. And as the chance would have it, Jean was proven to be right in 1914.

Introducing an incredible game-changer in the visual arts, Jean Arp was one of the first artists to make randomness and chance part of his work

Every sculpture artist often use various materials and that did not change to 2016
Jean Arp – Constellation According to the Laws of Chance – Image via

Jean Arp and Modern Art

After his arrival to Switzerland, Arp found a group of similar minded individuals who shared his avant-garde outlook on art. There, Jean was one of the founding members of the Dada movement in Zürich in the year of 1916[2]. During that time, he decided to go with his alternative name of Hans. Alongside Max Ernst and the social activist Alfred Grünwald, he set up the Cologne Dada group which, although rather inferior to the Zürich department, was rather influential in its own right. By working on Dadaistic concepts, Arp was a pivotal part of the first radical and genuine avant-garde movement Europe has ever seen. His further involvement with the modern art phenomenon was extended in 1925 when Jean was featured in the first exhibition of the surrealist group at the Galérie Pierre in Paris. Inspired by the attention he received from the Surrealist artists, Arp moved to the Paris suburb of Meudon the next year.

In the year of 1931, Arp decided to break his bonds with the Surrealist movement in order to establish the Paris-based group Abstraction-Création. Jean also expanded his efforts from collage and reliefs to bronze and stone sculptures at this time[3]. His advanced mindset even made possible something very ahead of his time – Arp produced several small works made of multiple elements that the viewer could actually pick up, separate and rearrange into new configurations. Throughout the 1930s, Jean wrote and published essays and poetry as well, something he did for the rest of his days. His expansion over the Atlantic happened in 1949 when Arp held a solo exhibition at the Buchholz Gallery in New york City. He also won many awards in this mature period of his career, highlighted by the Grand Prize for sculpture at the 1954 Venice Biennale and the 1963 Grand Prix National des Arts. Arp died in the year of 1966, in Basel, Switzerland. He left behind him an incredible array of artworks and a legacy which will echo throughout the rest of modern art. Jean Arp’s written words also had a massive impact on the generations of artists after his time, effectively making sure that he still had a say in many creative matters from the second half of the 20th century.

Although Arp’s work is non-representational, much of his creative concepts were firmly rooted in nature and organic forms

Between 1916 and 1966, german abstraction works were close to surrealism and Strasbourg Dada
Jean Arp – Cloud Shepherd, 1953 – Image via

An Echo Through Modern Art History

Ultimately, Arp’s articulation of biomorphic forms had a massive impact on virtually all later 20th-century abstract artists[4]. Furthermore, his work was instrumental in the founding of the Dada movement, as well as rather pivotal in Surrealism and Constructivism. This kind of influence only further cements Jean Arp’s name in artist history as he can easily be considered to be one of the most substantial and influential creative minds early twentieth century had to offer. Whether he was making sculptures or collages, wrote poems or discussed creative theories, or was simply drawing random forms on a piece of paper – absolutely all Arp authored was underlined by the note of originality and modern creativity.


  1. Arp, J., On my way;: Poetry and essays, 1912-1947 (The Documents of modern art) , Wittenborn, Schultz, 1948
  2. Journal, U., Hansen, S., The Art of Jean Arp 1914 – 1922 (20 Color Paintings and Works of Art): (The Amazing World of Art, Dada, Abstract, Expressionism), CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015
  3. Fischer, K., Hans Arp: Sculptures: A Critical Survey, Hatje Cantz, 2012
  4. Arp, J., Arp on Arp: Poems, Essays, Memories, The Viking Press, 1972

Featured image: Jean Art – A photo of the artist in his studio – Image via
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017[un]erwartetDie Kunst des Zufalls, Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart Group
2016On the Subject of the Ready-madeDaimler Contemporary, Berlin Group
2016Dada est tatouGalerie de multiples, Paris Group
2016Dada Afrika. Dialog mit dem FremdenBerlinische Galerie, Berlin Group
2016Jean Arp: Reliefs Zeichnungen Collagen Grafiken SkulpturenGalerie Renée Ziegler, Zurich Solo
2016Flora, Fauna and Other Forms of LifeMichael Werner Gallery, London Group
2016Dadaglobe ReconstructedMuseum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, NY Group
2016Um die Ecke denkenMuseum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich Group
2016Beckmann, Picasso, Giacometti & more.Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz Group
2016Abstracting from NatureConnaught Brown, London Group
2016OvergrowthDeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA Group
2016Überblick 2016Galerie Remmert und Barth, Dusseldorf Group
2016Everything Is DadaYale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT Group
2016Dada UniversalLandesmuseum Zürich, Zurich Group
2016Dadaglobe ReconstructedKunsthaus Zürich, Zurich Group
2015Hans Arp. Der Nabel der AvantgardeGeorg Kolbe Museum, Berlin Solo
2015the tiny picture showPavel Zoubok Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2015Mein Bild, mein Raum & ich Part IGalerie Vayhinger, Radolfzell Group
2015l'art n'est pas la photographieGalerie Natalie Seroussi, Paris Group
2015NachtbilderAargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau Group
2015ArtZuid 2015Foundation ArtZuid, Amsterdam Group
2015Plasters: Casts and CopiesThe Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield, West Yorkshire Group
2015Simple Forms: Contemplating BeautyMori Art Museum, Tokyo Group
2015Taking Shape: Modern Works From The Permanent CollectionPalm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA Group
2015Arp, Man Ray, and Matta: Surrealists in any mediumBrooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN Group
2015de-FORMATIONSBruce Silverstein Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2015Nice to See You! 160 Works from the CollectionKunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz Group
2014Hans Arp: SkizzenbücherKunstmuseum Appenzell, Appenzell Solo
2014Jean Arp: Osvaldo LiciniMuseo d'Arte di Lugano, Lugano Solo
2014Hans Arp: ChanceHauser & Wirth, London Solo
2014Sculptors' JewelleryGallery Pangolin, Chalford Group
2014La couleur seule dans tous ses étatsGalerie Natalie Seroussi, Paris Group
2014Surreale BegegnungenSamuelis Baumgarte Galerie, Bielefeld Group
2014Arp, Mirό, CalderBoise Art Museum BAM, Boise, ID Group
2014Face à l'oeuvreFondation Maeght, Saint-Paul Group
2014Odyssee Moderne Cézanne Bis BraqueGalerie Knoell, Basel Group
2014Formes simplesCentre Pompidou-Metz, Metz Group
2014Carte BlanchePace Gallery Chesa Büsin, Zuoz Group
2014La collection réinventéeCentre d'arts plastiques Albert Chanot, Clamart Group
2013The Circle Walked CasuallyDeutsche Bank KunstHalle, Berlin Group
2013Surrealism and the DreamMuseo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid Group
2013AbstraktGalerie Michael Haas, Berlin Group
2013Blickachsen 9Skulpturenbiennale Blickachsen, Bad Homburg Group
2013NuageMusée Réattu, Arles Group
2013Abstraction CréationHet Mondriaanhuis, Amersfoort Group
2012Jean Arp A Collection Of Wood Reliefs And CollagesBlain|Di Donna, New York City, NY Solo
2012Hans Arp: Ovi BimbaHubertus Exhibitions, Zurich Solo
2012Jean Arp: Arp Is ArtLuxembourg & Dayan London, London Solo
2012Electric Fields: Surrealism And BeyondPower Station of Art, Shanghai Group
2012Art Will Thrill You! : The Essence of Modern Japanese ArtNational Museum of Modern Art Tokyo (MOMAT), Tokyo Group
2012White: Marbles And Paintings From Antiquity To NowRobilant + Voena, London Group
2012Encounters with the 1930sMuseo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid Group
2012Paper BandJason McCoy Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2012La sculpture des peintresMusée de L'Annonciade , St. Tropez Group
2012The Small Utopia. Ars MultiplicataFondazione Prada, Venice Group
2012CollagesEspace de l’art concret, Mouans Sartoux Group
2012Surreal ThingMjellby Konstmuseum, Halmstad Group
2012 Mid-Twentieth Centurythe molesworth gallery, Dublin Group
2012Ein Wald der SkulpturenStiftung Opelvillen, Rüsselsheim Group
2012Sammeln, was man liebtMuseum im Kulturspeicher, Würzburg Group
2012Masters: Da Schiele A PicassoGalleria Torbandena, Trieste Group
2012During Tefaf 2012Galerie Wansink, Maastricht Group
2012Escultura objecteFundacio Suñol, Barcelona Group
2012Vanguardias y Arte InternacionalGalería Leandro Navarro, Madrid Group
2012Hans Arp: WolkenpumpenArp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen Group
2011Jean ArpThe Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX Solo
2011Hans Arp: Schwellenplastiken und Papierarbeiten aus den späten JahrenGalerie Thomas, Munich Solo
2011Ripped: The Allure of CollageHeckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY Group
2011Shepherd & Derom GalleriesPatrick Derom Gallery, Brussels Group
2011GLASSTRESS STOCKHOLMMillesgården, Lidingö Group
2011The George and Ann Dannatt CollectionPallant House Gallery, Chichester, West Sussex Group
2011Dali And The SurrealistsNational Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan Group
2011Matrix to ImpressionMadelyn Jordon Fine Art, Scarsdale, NY Group
2011Paris Berlin 2011Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin Group
2010Hans Arp: TraumanatomieArp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen Solo
2009Hans Arp. FigurinenErnst Barlach Haus, Hamburg Solo
2008Art is ArpMusée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain (MAMCS), Strasbourg Solo
2008Hans Arp:Linie und Form. Sammlungspräsentation in der Grafischen SammlungSprengel Museum Hannover, Hannover Solo
2007Hans Arp: Die Natur der DingeArp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen Solo
2007Hans Arp: PoupéesKunsthalle Ziegelhütte, Appenzell Solo
2006Jean Arp: Retrospectiva 1915-1966Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid (CBA), Madrid Solo
2005Hans Arp: Ein Rückblick auf die Arp-Wanderausstellung in JapanArp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen Solo
2005Hans Arp: Works from the Collection of the Arp Museum, Bahnhof RolandseckGunma Museum of Art, Tatebayashi Solo
2005Hans Arp: Works from the Collection of the ARP MUSEUM Bahnhof RolandseckKawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Sakura, Chiba Solo
2005Hans ArpMuseum Liner, Appenzell Solo
2005Hans Arp: Works from the Collection of the Arp Museum, Bahnhof RolandseckArp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen Solo
2005Hans Arp: Works from the Collection of the Arp Museum, Bahnhof RolandseckThe Museum of Modern Art, Hayama, Hayama Solo
2004Jean Arp. L'invention de la formePalais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels Solo
2003Jean ArpGalerie Natalie Seroussi, Paris Solo
2001Jean ArpFundación Joan Miró, Barcelona Solo
2000Arp: Line and FormMitchell-Innes & Nash, New York City, NY Solo
1997Hans Arp: Ankäufe des Landes Rheinland-PfalzWilhelm Hack Museum, Ludwigshafen Solo
1997Hans Arp: Ankäufe des Landes Rheinland-PfalzLandesmuseum Mainz, Mainz Solo
1995Arp: reliefsHenry Moore Institute, Leeds Solo
1994Hans Arp: eine ÜbersichtMuseum Würth, Künzelsau Solo
1991Hans Arp: die Metamorphose der FigurMuseum Ludwig, Cologne Solo
1990Hans Arp: Collagen, Aquarelle, ZeichnungenErker-Galerie, St. Gallen Solo
1990Jean ArpSidney Janis Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1988Ich bin der grosse DerdiedasMuseum für Neue Kunst, Freiburg Solo
1985Hans Arp: Reliefs, Skulpturen, Bilder, Collagen, ZeichnungenErker-Galerie, St. Gallen Solo
1984Arp In TicinoMuseo d'Arte Mendrisio, Mendrisio Solo
1983Arp: The Dada ReliefsThe National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC Solo
1980Hans ArpSidney Janis Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1975Jean ArpSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Solo
1973Jean ArpMusée d'art moderne André Malraux (MuMa), Le Havre Solo
1972Jean Arp at The Metropolitan Museum of ArtThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY Solo
1970Jean ArpGalería René Metras, Barcelona Solo
1969Jean Arp Memorial ExhibitionDallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX Solo
1968Jean ArpSidney Janis Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1967Jean ArpGemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague Solo
1966Hans ArpErker-Galerie, St. Gallen Solo
1965Jean ArpGalleria Schwarz, Milan Solo
1963Jean ArpGalleria Schwarz, Milan Solo
1962Jean Arp: Sculpture, reliefs, paintings, collages, tapestriesTate Britain, London Solo
1962Jean ArpModerna Museet, Stockholm Solo
1962Hans ArpKunsthalle Basel, Basel Solo
1962ArpGalerie Denise René, Rive Gauche, Paris Solo
1957Jean ArpGalleria del Cavallino, Venice Solo
1957ArpGalleria del Naviglio, Milan Solo
1954Jean ArpCurt Valentin Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1929ArpGalerie Goemans, Paris Solo
1927ArpGalerie Surréaliste, Paris Solo
1893Jean Arp : Le Temps Des Papiers DechiresMusée National d´Art Moderne, Paris Solo