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

Géométrie végétale

Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)
Géométrie végétale
signed 'ARP' (on a label affixed to the reverse)
painted wood relief in the artist's frame
46 ½ x 34 5/8 in. (118 x 88 cm.)
Executed in 1958
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, January 1966.
B. Rau, Hans Arp: Die Reliefs, Oeuvre-Katalog, Stuttgart, 1981, p. 274, no. 571 (illustrated).
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Arp & Mondrian, January-March 1960, no. 11 (illustrated).
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Arp, April-May 1963, no. 34 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

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

Consisting purely of simple forms derived, but not copied, from nature, Géométrie végétale conjures a magical world of natural growth held together through the unforced harmony of its composition. Arp's aesthetic aim was to "aspire to the spiritual, to a mystical reality" (quoted in Arp, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1958, p. 26). 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 color 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" (quoted in Jours effeuillés: Poèmes, essais, souvenirs, 1920-1965, Zurich, 1963, pp. 435-436).

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