Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)
white marble
Height (including base): 19 in. (48.3 cm.)
Conceived in 1931 and executed in 1960; unique
Galerie Edouard Loeb, Paris (acquired from the artist).
William Rubin, New York.
Private collection, New York.
Danese Gallery, New York.
Acquired by the present owner, April 2000.
C. Giedion-Welcker, Jean Arp, Stuttgart, 1957, p. 106 (larger marble version illustrated, pp. 86-87).
S. Taeuber Arp and H. Arp, Zweiklang, Zurich, 1960, p. 66 (larger marble version illustrated).
M. Seuphor, Arp, New York, 1961, no. 2 (larger marble version illustrated).
H. Read, Arp, London, 1968, p. 205, no. 90 (larger marble version illustrated, p. 86).
E. Trier, Jean Arp: Sculpture, 1957-1966 , London, 1968, p. 104, no. 8a (larger marble version illustrated).
M. Andreotti, The Early Sculpture of Jean Arp, London, 1989, pp. XV, 184, 191 and 193, no. 69 (larger marble version illustrated, pp. 185-186; larger marble version illustrated again on the cover).
Sale room notice
Please note the amended executed date:
Conceived in 1931 and executed in 1960

Please note the larger marble version is illustrated in the literature references.

Please note the correct dimensions:
Height (including base): 19 in. (48.3 cm.)

Lot Essay

Torse is the second of two abstracted bodies that Arp identified as his first works in the round; the other is also titled Torse, which he created in 1930. Having previously created reliefs and other primarily frontal compositions of biomorphic forms, it was in his artistic exploration of the human body that he was able to give full expression to the analogy of human and vegetal forms that was the inspiration for much of his subsequent oeuvre. Recalling the creative epiphany that led to these important works, Arp commented:

"For many years, roughly from the end of 1919 to 1931, I interpreted most of my works. Often the interpretation was more important for me than the work itself. Suddenly my need for interpretation vanished, and the body, the form, the supremely perfected work became everything to me. In 1930 I went back to the activity which the Germans so eloquently call Hauerei (hewing). I engaged in sculpture and modeled in plaster. The first products were two torsos" (quoted in op. cit., p. 176).

Though table top in size, the arched back and open, active stance of the present figure convey a powerful sense of movement. The dance-like quality of this pose is further emphasized by the body's relationship to its base, which it touches at a single, asymmetrical point. Depending on the viewing angle, the torso appears to be stretching or even leaping into the air; its smoothly rounded biomorphic forms seem to push outwards, reflecting Arp's fascination with representing biological growth and transformation. Although identified as a human torso, the figurine also marks a convergence of human and natural elements, a metamorphosis or even evolution of one living entity into something new. Although reminiscent of the curve of a hip, breast, stomach or buttocks, these budding forms are analogous to human features in a vaguely generalized way; when first approaching the sculpture it may be difficult to ascertain the front from the back. Arp appears to have intended certain features to resemble others, creating a playfully ambiguous effect. Upon closer study, however, the orientation of the figure becomes apparent: it leans forward, centered on a negative space formed by a concavity in the mid-section of the torso. Nonetheless, the undulating abstracted forms express a sensuality that is distinctly female. Margherita Andreotti has addressed the importance of the female form for Arp's sculptural experimentation, stating:

"Despite their high degree of simplification, most of Arp's recurring torsos have recognizably feminine connotations. This indicates, on the one hand, their descent from the many female nudes Arp had drawn well before his discovery around 1916 of biomorphic forms, and, on the other, it suggests that Arp adhered to the traditional notion that sensual beauty is best expressed by the female body, whose curvaceous forms must have seemed particularly well suited to Arp's curvilinear vocabulary. In his preference for the feminine form, Arp may also have been reflecting the age-old symbolism equating woman with nature, which was implicit in his well-known statement, 'Art is a fruit that grows in man like a fruit on a plant or a child in its mother's womb'" (ibid., p. 181).

More from Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

View All
View All