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Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)
Property from a Private Collector
Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)

Vase, Amphore enceinte

Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)
Vase, Amphore enceinte
signed twice 'Arp' (on the reverse) and signed again 'Arp' (on a label affixed to the reverse)
painted wood relief in the artist's frame
47 1/8 x 37 3/8 in. (120 x 95 cm.)
Executed in 1953
Acquired from the artist by the family of the present owner, April 1954.
G. Diehl, El arte moderno francés en Caracas, Caracas, 1959, p. 27, no. 10 (illustrated, fig. 11).
B. Rau, Hans Arp, Die Reliefs, Oeuvre-Katalog, Stuttgart, 1981, p. 218, no. 456 (illustrated).
Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, 57 Obras de la Colección Carlos Raúl Villanueva, 1972, no. 5.

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

We thank the Fondation Arp, Clamart, for their help cataloguing this work.

“Art is a fruit that grows in man, like a fruit on a plant, or a child in its mother's womb”

With Dada’s declaration of the death of painting in 1915, Arp gave up the practice. He would not adopt sculpture for another fifteen years. In the intervening years, he focused on the production of his reliefs, objects which occupied an intermediate space between painting and sculpture and, as such, best expressed his search for a different medium of expression. Unlike Duchamp, who sought to elevate everyday objects to the status of Art, Arp remained an artist in the traditional sense, crafting his elegant objects with a restrained sensibility for composition and color. As he explained, “My reliefs and my sculptures naturally adapt to nature. Yet when one looks at them closely, one notices that they are crafted by human hand” (quoted in Hommage à Jean Arp, exh. cat., Musée d'art moderne, Strasbourg, 1967, p. 38).
The abstract, yet sensual Vase, Amphore enceinte draws on the motif of an amphora, which Arp had utilized in his earlier reliefs. The swell of the central form engages the viewer’s eye, its supple contours evoking the body of a woman. Nestled within the bulging amphora is a darker blue form, a growing organism within. The title, “Vase, Pregnant Amphora,” further personifies the vessel and creates a link between the female body and the amphora. This osmosis between words and objects, abstract forms and meaning was at the very core of Arp’s “object-language,” a research, through poetry and art works, into the malleability of signs. In the opening of his discussion on Arp, André Breton wrote in Surrealism and Painting, “Everything I love, everything I think and feel, predisposes me towards a particular philosophy of immanence according to which surreality would be embodied in reality itself and would be neither superior nor exterior to it. And reciprocally, too, because the container would also be the contents. What I envisage is almost a communicating vessel between the container and the contained” (A. Breton, Le Surréalisme et la peinture, Paris, 1928, p. 46). Associating an amphora—hence a “vessel”—with the female form, the present work symbolically and visually echoes Breton’s words explaining the relationship between surreality and reality as “contents” and “container.” The fluid evolution of meaning at play in Vase; Amphore enceinte—from abstract organic form, to female body, to amphora—is a brilliant example of Breton’s “communicating vessel.”

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