• Sale 1103

    The Art Of The Surreal

    6 February 2013, London, King Street

  • Lot 108

    Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)

    Tête - Nez

    Price Realised  

    Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)
    Tête - Nez
    signed 'Arp' (on the artist's label attached to the reverse)
    oil on cut-out board laid down on the artist's painted board
    10½ x 8 5/8 in. (26.6 x 21.8 cm.) (the central subject)
    15½ x 13 7/8 in. (39.2 x 35.2 cm.) (overall)
    Painted in 1925-1926


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    Tête-nez is one of the reliefs that Hans Arp created during the 1920s and which remain highly celebrated within his oeuvre. This work was formerly in the collection of Arp's own brother, François, and was subsequently owned by his daughter, Ruth Tillard-Arp. Looking at Tête-nez, layers of material have been placed on top of each other, creating a vivid, fluid and ambiguous structure which plunges and protrudes, the elements articulated by a deliberately restrained palette that lends the image more intensity.

    With the white hole and the large, organic-seeming structure that dominates the centre of the composition, one wonders if these are not the eye and titular nose of the head in Tête-nez. Arp appears to have created a colourful reconfiguration of the depiction of a person in which he has combined amoeba-like forms that recall biology on a cellular scale - the micro - while also conflating that visual trope with the face itself - the macro. During the 1920s, as the Dada moment ebbed away, Arp moved towards a style that was anchored, albeit loosely and lyrically, in the figurative, often presenting human subjects. However, the features of human appearance were shown in flux, presented through a deliberate combination of stylised, often organic forms that recalled amoeba as much as the human face. As Arp himself insisted, the meanings of his works remain as variable as the weather. With its wavy swathes of colour and Tête-nez, it is clear that the possible interpretations are myriad.

    Considering this fluidity and openness to subjectivity of meaning in Arp's works at the time, it is easy to see why the artist found himself embraced by the nascent Surrealist movement in Paris, where he had moved in 1925. While there, Arp lived at 23 rue Tourlaque in Montmartre, where he was a neighbour of his old Dada comrade Max Ernst, who would become one of the keystones of Surreal art. In Montmartre, Arp also lived in the same building as the younger Catalan artist Joan Miró; looking at Tête-nez, that contact appears to show, for instance in a comparison with one of Miró's masterpieces from the period, Persona tirando una piedra a un pajaro of 1926, now in the Museum of Modern Art. While these two pictures, with their bands of colour penetrated by other forms, each tending to be strongly delineated, clearly share a compositional language, Arp was nonetheless at pains to point out that Miró came to his own organic language of forms and spontaneity along his own idiosyncratic path, rather than being derivative of the older artist. Arp's contact with the Surrealists at the time he created Tête-nez resulted in his participating in the group's first ever show, held at the Galerie Pierre in 1925. He retained strong contact with many of the members of the group, but retained a certain guarded distance regarding some of the thought processes behind his art and the interiority of the Surrealists' output, and in particular their politics.


    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


    Provenance

    François Arp, Meudon, the artist's brother, and thence by descent to Ruth Tillard-Arp, his daughter; her sale, Calmels Cohen, Paris, 21 June 2003, lot 8.
    Private collection, Paris, by whom acquired at the above sale.


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note the correct cataloguing for this lot:
    signed 'Arp' (on the artist's label attached to the reverse)


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A FRENCH PRIVATE COLLECTION


    Literature

    G. Marchiori, Arp, Milan, 1964, no. 72, p. 92 (illustrated p. 93, dated 1928).
    B. Rau, Hans Arp. Die Reliefs. Oeuvre-Katalog, Stuttgart, 1981, no. 169, p. 87 (illustrated, dated 1928).


    Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Surréaliste, Arp, November - December 1927, no. 37.
    Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paul Eluard et ses amis peintres: 1895-1952, November 1982 - January 1983.