Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)
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Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)


Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)
with the artist's label bearing 'Arp Meudon 1932' (on the reverse)
painted wood relief in the artist's painted frame
27½ x 33½ in. (70 x 85 cm.)
Executed in 1932
Acquired directly from the artist by the father of the present owner circa 1933-1934.

D'aci i d'alla, vol. XXII, 1934 (illustrated).
Gaceta de arte, no. 38, 1936, p. 78 (illustrated).
E. Bille, 'Hans Arp', in Ny Tidskrift for Kunstindustri, no. 9, 1937, p. 161 (illustrated, dated '1934').
M. Seuphor, Mission spirituelle de l'art: A propos de l'oeuvre de Sophie Taeuber-Arp et de Jean Arp, Paris, 1953, p. 29 (illustrated, titled and dated 'Formes concrètes - 1929').
B. Rau, M. Seuphor, Hans Arp, Die Reliefs, Oeuvre-katalog, Stuttgart, 1981, no. 237, p. 116 (incorrectly illustrated as no. 244, p. 119).
Tokyo, Nippon Salon, Album surréaliste. Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, June 1937, no. 4 (illustrated, dated '1933').
Zurich, Galerie des Eaux Vives, March - April 1945, no. 10.
Indianapolis, John Herron Art Museum, 20th century painting and sculpture: Cantor and Witzinger collections, March - April 1955.
Special notice
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Adrienne Dumas
Adrienne Dumas

Lot Essay

Works of art should remain anonymous in the great studio of nature, like clouds, mountains, seas, animals and men...Even more than in my youth, I believe today that a return to an essential order, to harmony, is needed to save the world from everlasting confusion.' (Hans Arp, quoted in M. Seuphor, 'Twenty Pre-Texts and a Whispered Envoi for Jean Arp's Reliefs,' B. Rau, Hans Arp, Die Reliefs Oeuvre Katalog Stuttgart 1981, p. XXIII)

Configuration is a monochrome white wood relief created by Hans Arp in 1932. Consisting of two fluidly cut wooden forms set against a white background, it is a work that both epitomizes Arp's unique aesthetic and unites what were deemed in the early 1930s to be the twin opposing tendencies of Abstraction and Surrealism. For Arp, who was an artist who was always happy to work with and exhibit alongside both Abstract pioneers and Surrealists, there was no contradiction. Arp's working roots derived from his years among the Zurich Dada artists when he had pioneered an aesthetic founded on the laws of nature and chance, that determined the path of his art for the rest of his life.

Allowing his abstract forms to be created largely automatically from a combination of chance and unconscious impulse, Arp's aesthetic was one in which he allowed himself 'to be guided by the work at the time of its birth, I have confidence in it. I don't reflect. The forms come, pleasing or strange, hostile, inexplicable, dumb or drowsy. They are born of themselves. It seems to me that I only have to move my hands. These lights, these shadows, that 'chance' sends us, should be welcomed by us with astonishment and gratitude. The 'chance', for example, that guides our fingers...(and)...the forms that then take shape, give us access to mysteries, reveal to us the profound sources of life...It is sufficient to close one's eyes for the inner rhythm to pass into the hands with more purity. This transfer, this flux is still easier to control, to guide in a dark room. A great artist of the Stone Age knew how to conduct the thousands of voices that sang in him; he drew with his eyes turned inward.' (Jean Arp, Jours effeuillés. Poèmes, essais, souvenirs, 1920- 1965. Zürich, 1963, pp. 435-6.)

Perhaps a landscape of clouds passing by, perhaps an imagined impression or a dream-image of a microscopic world of abundant amoebic life, reliefs like Configuration are both ambiguous and precise. Pure abstractions both drawn from and evocative of nature, they articulate a complete worldview. It is a vision of the world as a cosmic soup made up of living particles infused with an innate natural or spiritual order and rhythm that pulses through the forms in a reflection of the creative energy and intuitive skill of the artist. Arp's creative search for a constructive order, his embracing of Nature and what he described as the 'laws' of chance, was also a spiritual search. As if emulating the 'hand' of a divine Creator, Arp's actions and decisions attempt to draw on the innate logic and patterns of nature. It was his intention, as he pointed out early in his career, not to work 'from Nature' as so many artists had before him, but instead to try to 'to be natural'. 'I made my first experiments with free forms', he explained of what was to become his consistent aesthetic, 'I looked for new constellations of form such as nature never stops producing. I tried to make forms grow. I put my trust in the example of seeds, stars, clouds, plants, animals, men, and finally my own innermost being.' (Hans Arp quoted in Arp exh. cat. New York, 1958, p. 26.)

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