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Jean Arp


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German-born French sculptor, painter, and poet.

Born in Strasbourg, Alsace, when it was still part of Germany, Arp was French at heart though German by birth. During his life he moved frequently, establishing contact with many major avant-garde artists of the day. He studied in Weimar and Paris, met Klee in Switzerland in 1909 and Kandinsky in Munich in 1912, where he exhibited with the Blaue Reiter group. In Berlin the following year he exhibited with the expressionists and in 1914 in Paris he associated with avant-garde artists, such as Delaunay and Modigliani.

He spent World War I in Switzerland, where he exhibited his first abstract works and helped to found the Zürich dada group. With the artist Sophie Taeuber (1889–1943), whom he married in 1922, he experimented with reliefs, cut-outs, constructions, collages, and random compositions using wood, card, paper, and other media. Unlike many early abstractions, Arp's works consisted mainly of organic curvilinear shapes. After the war he worked on collective compositions with Max Ernst in Cologne. He published The Isms of Art with El Lissitzky (1890–1941) in 1925, and after moving to Meudon, near Paris (1926), exhibited with the Paris surrealists. Though still producing painted wood reliefs, by the 1930s he was producing fully developed supple rounded three-dimensional forms of sculpture in marble and bronze. He was a founder member of the Abstraction-Création group in 1931.

Back in Meudon after spending World War II in Grasse, Arp published a collection of poems and in 1948 poetry and essays. In the USA in 1950 he did a sculpture for Harvard University and in 1958 a mural relief for the UNESCO building in Paris. Arp won the International Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale in 1954.

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