Profile 3: SOPHIE TAEUBER-ARP (1889-1943), Founding Member of the Zurich Dada Group


It is not possible for us to take ourselves back to the exact circumstances of those in a past era, attempting to create art in the style of the past is always inauthentic. – Sophie Taeuber-Arp

Hand-Engraved-RE  Sophie Taeuber was born in Davos, Switzerland, and became one of the few Swiss members of Zurich Dada. In 1906, she studied drawing, design and decorative painting, and left for Munich in 1910. While there, she studied under Wilhelm von Debschitz in his textile workshop, and after spending a year in Hamburg’s School of Applied Arts, she returned to von Debschitz, until relocating to Zurich. She met Hans Arp in 1915, married him in 1922, and together they collaborated on “duo-collages,” based on her past abstract textile works. With Arp, she introduced “applied arts” to abstract arts in weaving his designs into her work.

In addition to her weaving, Taeuber was truly a multi-media artist, including modern dance, painting, tapestry, embroidery, drawing, interior design, furniture, architecture, and marionettes. Her sculptures were “parodies” of the human head, and merged art and utility as decorative hat-stands. Through her Dada years, she was a professor at the School of Applied Arts in Zurich, teaching textile design and techniques.

Because her school rejected Dada events, at the Café Voltaire, she used a pseudonym to pursue her dancing, and became quite proficient. Hugo Ball claimed that his recitations of his sound poems evoked “the strangest effect and movements” (by Sophie). Her dancing, in fact, informed the movements of the marionettes she created.

Taeuber designed the set and marionettes for Carlo Gozzi’s Il re cervo (König Hursch/King Stag), which provided a novel production for the 1913 Freud – Jung libido controversy.

Taeuber endeavored to free her art via pictorial approaches “at the service of pure feeling.”  She and Arp discontinued working in “pretentious” oil paints, and used simple cloth, paper and other materials to capture the purity of their art.

After leaving the School of Applied Arts, she and Arp moved near Paris into a house of her design. The building now houses the “Foundation Jean Arp.”

Taeuber-Arp died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in 1943. She has been honored by being the only woman represented on a Swiss bank note. – MEKHand-Engraved-L


The intrinsic decorative urge should not be eradicated. It is one of humankind’s deep-rooted, primordial urges. Primitive people decorated their implements and cult objects with a desire to beautify and enhance…it is a sense emanating from the urge for perfection and creative accomplishment. – Sophie Taeuber-Arp, 1927



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