Jean Arp was born in Strasbourg, Germany on September 16th, 1886. From 1900 to 1904, he attended the École des Arts et Métiers in Strasbourg. After leaving, he went to Paris and began publishing his poetry. Arp then studied at the Kunstschule in Weimar, Germany and the Académie Julian in Paris. Arp was associated with a number of the most famous artistic movements and artists of the early twentieth century.

In 1909, he went to Switzerland and co-founded the Moderne Bund (“The Modern Alliance”), a group of artists dedicated to modern art; he participated in their exhibitions until 1913. In 1912, Arp traveled to Munich and was briefly associated with Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”), which included Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Later, in Berlin, he interacted with Der Sturm (“The Assault”) and showed with them in 1913. Arp returned to Paris the next year, where he met various artists, including Pablo Picasso, Sonia Delaunay, and Robert Delaunay.

During World War I, Arp left for Zurich in order to take advantage of Swiss neutrality. In 1916, he became one of the founders of Dada, the famed avant-garde art movement that revolutionized the art world. That same year he also met, and later married, Sophie Taeuber, an artist who became his primary collaborator. Arp began creating painted wooden reliefs at this time, along with the collages and embroidered pieces he made with Taeuber. In 1926, the couple moved from Germany to a suburb of Paris known as Meudon.

Arp was associated with the Surrealist movement throughout the 1920s, and specifically with the Cercle et Carré (“Circle and Square”) group in 1930. This was also when Arp made his first papiers déchirés (“torn papers”), which embodied the Surrealist idea of leaving creation to chance. In 1931, Arp and the group left Surrealism for the Abstraction-Création movement. Through this change, Arp was introduced to Constructivism, a movement that was more rational and ordered than Surrealism. This new influence was reflected in Arp’s works through harder edges, sharper lines, and straighter lines.

Arp and Taeuber returned to Zurich during World War II, where Taeuber died in 1943. This was when his first papiers froissés (“crumpled papers”) was created. After the war, Arp returned to Meudon, where he continued his abstract experiments and also wrote poetry and essays mainly dedicated to his late wife. Arp was very successful in the 1950s, receiving awards, a commission for the Paris UNESCO building, and retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He died June 7th, 1966 in Basel, Switzerland.

Museum Collections

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art – Philadelphia
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City
  • The Museum of Modern Art – New York City
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – New York City
  • Kreeger Museum – Washington, D.C.
  • Tate Modern – London, UK