Van Gogh •
Jean Hans Arp
Jean Hans Arp
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Jean Arp was born in Strasbourg, France. He began drawing
at a very early age but soon tired of "the everlasting copying of stuffed birds and withered flowers," and turned to poetry for relief, leaving the Strasbourg School of Applied Art to read avidly the poetry of the members of the Sturmer group. On a visit to Paris in 1904 he came into contact with Modern painting. Within a few years, Arp had returned to the life of an art student, first at the Weimer Art School, and later (in 1908) at the Académie Julian in Paris. In 1911 he helped organize an exhibition in Lucerne under the title "Moderne Bund" which showed his works and those of Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, and others. The same year he visited Kandinsky, met the artists of the Blaue Reiter, and was soon contributing to their exhibitions and publications.
And so, Arp started making his first experiments with free forms. By the time he was twenty-five, Arp had emerged as a poet and painter
of great distinction. In 1914, Arp lived in Paris where he became a friends with Picasso, Apollinaire, Modigliani and Delaunay. The following year he moved to Zurich and exhibited his first mature collages and tapestries.
While in Zurich, Arp became active in the Dada movement, collaborating with Max Ernst. The playfulness of Dada appealed to him and aided the development of his unique symbolic pictographs. As the Dada movement waned, Arp (like many of his colleagues) gravitated toward Surrealism, and in 1925 he took part in the first group exhibition of Surrealist artists at the Galerie Pierre in Paris. His work at this time derived its composition from the "laws of chance" as much as from the workings of the unconscious - the cardinal principles underlying early Surrealism. Gradually Arp abandoned the earlier Dada-like forms, which were meant to shock, and began to emphasize organic growth and structure. Arp's Surrealist work is of the abstract or "automatic" variety practiced by Joan Miro, in which lines and forms of half-consciously perceived inner impulses suggested themselves on the surface of the canvas.
During World War II, Arp took refuge in Switzerland where he continued to work in the many media, which made him one of the most versatile of contemporary artists. In 1949, and again in 1950, he came to America and on the second of these journeys completed a monumental wood relief at Harvard University's Graduate Center at Cambridge, Mass.