Art is a fruit that grows in man like a fruit on a plant or a child in its mother’s womb. –Hans Arp
Hans Arp was born in Strasbourg, Alsace, situated in contested territory between France and Germany. He was given both French and German names at birth by his parents: Hans Peter Wilhelm and Jean Pierre Guillaume, and grew up fluent in both languages. He studied art in Strasbourg and Paris, and later founded Moderner Bund to exhibit Swiss modern art.
In 1912, Arp’s drawing were published in the Blaue Reiter Almanach (Blue Rider Alamanac) by the Expressionist group led by Vasily Kandinsky. Kandinsky was a strong influence on Arp, both as a visual artist and a poet. Arp also at this time became an exhibition organizer and reviewer for the journal Der Sturm (The Storm). Arp fled from Cologne to avoid the draft as war erupted, and made his way to Paris. There he was under suspicion of espionage and was ultimately forced to leave the country. Landing in neutral Switzerland and facing conscription, Arp pled mental illness.
As one of the founders of Zurich Dada, Arp illustrated almost every important book of poetry and journal issued during the period with his distinctive abstract imagery. He eventually began artistic multi-media collaborations with Sophie Taeuber, whom he married in 1922. In their “duo-collages,” they sought to “approach the pure radiance of reality” by avoiding the human influence of personality. He later turned to “earthly forms” of nature s an antidote to the horrors of WWI. Arp’s philosophical and psychological interests reflected his spirituality; based on chance and the subconscious, spontaneity was achieved à la Dada. In the late 1920’s, he applied nature’s cycles to sculpture, for which he later received many awards and commissions.
Arp died in Basel, Switzerland in 1966, 23 years after his wife, Sophie Taeuber-Arp. -MEK