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

Flocons aux rayons jaunes

Hans (Jean) Arp (1886-1966)
Flocons aux rayons jaunes
signed 'Arp' (on the artist's label on the reverse, with the title and date)
painted wood relief in the artist's original painted frame
21 5/8 x 27 1/2 in. (54.8 x 70 cm.) including the artist's frame
Executed in 1946
Galerie d'Art Moderne, Basel.
Dr Georg & Josi Guggenheim, Zurich, by whom acquired from the above in February 1957; sale, Christie's, London, 10 February 2005, lot 508.
Acquired at the above sale; sale, Christie's, London, 23 June 2009, lot 38.
Acquired at the above sale by the family of the present owner.
B. Rau, ed., Hans Arp, Die Reliefs, Oeuvre-Katalog, Stuttgart, 1981, no. 362 (illustrated p. 176).
St Gallen, Kunstmuseum, Hans Arp, Julius Bissier, Ben Nicholson, Mark Tobey, Italo Valenti, June - August 1963, no. 9 (illustrated).
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Elan Vital oder das Auge des Eros: Kandinsky, Miró, Arp, Calder, May - August 1994, no. 179 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Flocons aux rayons jaunes (Snowflakes with Yellow Light Rays) is an exquisite wood relief constructed by Jean Arp in 1946. Consisting purely of simple forms derived, but not copied, from nature, the relief conjures a magical world of natural growth held together through the unforced harmony of its composition. Highlighted with yellow painted sides, Arp's amoeba or snowflake-like forms are defined by the radiance of this near-fluorescent colour and by the shadows their volume casts on the plain white background of the work. Arp's aesthetic aim was what he once described as a, 'Construction in terms of lines, planes, shapes and colour [that] despising artifice, presumption, imitation and the carnival tricks of the trade... aspire to the spiritual, to a mystical reality' (Arp, quoted in exh. cat., Arp, New York, 1958, p. 26). Flocons aux rayons jaunes was formerly in the collection of the esteemed Swiss philanthropists Dr Georg and Josi Guggenheim. Together, this eminent couple amassed a collection of art that included works by many of the leading figures of the modernist era, a number of whom they knew personally, part of which was later donated to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, as well as two institutions in their home country of Switzerland.

For Arp, spontaneity and chance were integral to his artistic process. Adopting semi-automatist strategies in the construction of his reliefs, Arp sought to develop an art which went beyond the constraints of rational thought, arranging and re-arranging the different raised elements according to chance and pure instinct alone. This devotion to chance was a crucial creative strategy for the Surrealists, highlighted as one of the defining principles of the movement in André Breton’s first Surrealist Manifesto of 1924. Discussing the way in which he allowed the unconscious laws of chance to determine the form and outcome of his work, Arp explained: 'I allow myself 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... Very often, the colour which one selects blindly becomes the vibrant heart of the picture... 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' (Arp, quoted in Jours effeuills: Poemes, essais, souvenirs, 1920-1965, Zurich, 1963, pp. 435-436).

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