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Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more THE PROPERTY OF THE JEAN ARP AND SOPHIE TAEUBER-ARP FOUNDATION
Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)

La femme amphore

Details
Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966)
La femme amphore
signed 'Arp' (on the artist's label on the reverse)
painted wood relief in the artist's painted frame
49 1/4 x 41 1/4 in. (125 x 104.7 cm.)
Executed in 1929
Provenance
Patrick Waldberg, Paris, by 1952.
W.N. Copley, New York, by circa 1959; his sale, Sotheby's, New York, 5 & 6 November 1979, lot 6.
Dr Kramer, Dusseldorf.
Johannes Wasmuth, Dusseldorf.
The Jean Arp & Sophie Taeuber-Arp Foundation, Rolandseck, a bequest from the above in 1997.
Literature
B. Rau & M. Seuphor, Hans Arp. Die Reliefs, Oeuvre-Katalog, Stuttgart, 1981, no. 173, p. 88 (illustrated).
Stiftung Hans Arp und Sophie Taeuber-Arp, ed., Hans Arp/Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Rolandseck, 1996, no. 37, p. 110 (illustrated).

Exhibited
Brussels, Galerie Le Centaure, Arp, 1928 (illustrated; titled 'Vase').
London, Tate Gallery, Jean Arp, Sculpture, Relief, Paintings, Collages, Tapestries, 1962, no. 86.
Humlebaek, Danemark, Louisiana Museum, Hans Arp, 1962, no. 83.
Paris, Musée national d'Art moderne, Arp, February - April 1962, no. 71, p. 48.
Basel, Kunsthalle, Hans Arp, June - July 1962, no. 85.
Ingelhein am Rhein, 28. Internationale Tage, 100 Jahre Kunst in Deutschland, 1885-1985, April - June 1985, p. 82-83.
Rolandseck, Stiftung Hans Arp und Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Hans Arp zum 100. Geburtstag, May - August 1986, no. 108; this exhibition later travelled to Zurich, Kunsthaus, July - September 1986 and Kindberg, Galerie K. Walter Buchebner Gesellschaft, October - November 1986.
Lodz, Muzeum Sztuki, Arp 1886-1966: malarz rzezbiarz poeta, February - April 1989, pp. 32-33.
Moscow, Staatliches Puschkin-Museum für Bildende Künste, Hans Arp 1886-1966. Skulpturen, Reliefs, Bilder, Collagen, 1990, p. 73 (illustrated).
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Hans Arp, June - August 1991, no. 119, p. 166 (illustrated).
Nuremberg, Kunsthalle, Hans Arp, December 1994 - January 1995, no. 34, p. 178 (illustrated p. 115).
Munich, Stiftung Haus der Kunst GmbH, Elan Vital oder Das Auge des Eros, Kandinsky, Klee, Arp, Miró, Calder, May - August 1994, no. 58, p. 549 (illustrated pl. 109).
Leeds, Henry Moore Institute, Arp: Relief, June - September 1995, no. 10 (illustrated on the cover and p. 30).
Rolandseck, Stiftung Hans Arp und Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Hans Arp, Sophie Taeuber Arp, 1996; this exhibition later travelled to St. Petersburg, Staatliches Museum Hermitage, 1997, Thessaloniki, Altes Archäologisches Museum, 1997, Mantoue, Palazzo Te, 1997, Toyota, Municipal Museum of Art, 1998, Krakow, Galerie Bunkier Sztuki, 1999 and Heino, Hannema-de Stuers Fundatie, 2000, no. 19, p. 76 (illustrated).
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Arp & Miró, June - September 1999, no. 24, p. 23 (illustrated).
Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Dialoge der Kunst: Herausragende Positionen in Deutschland und Frankreich im XX. Jahrhunderts, September - November 1999, no. 40, p. 130 (illustrated).
Heino, Hannema de Stuers Fundatie, Hans Arp - Sophie Taeuber-Arp: een keuze uit de Bahnhofcollectie, April - June 2000, no. 37, p. 110.
New York, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Arp, Line and Form, 2000, no. 23 (illustrated).
Frankfurt am Main, Kulturforum Altana im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Farbe und Form: Sophie Teuber-Arp im Dialog mit Hans Arp, June - July 2002, no. 87, p. 63; this exhibition later travelled to Cismar, Schloss Gottorf, Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen, August - September 2002.
Palma de Mallorca, Fundació Sa Nostra, Hans Arp - Sophie Taeuber Arp, exploracions mu´tues, 2003, p. 107.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Jean Arp, L'invention de la forme, March - June 2004, p. 178 (illustrated p. 99).
Venice, Museo Correr, Arp, Jean e Sophie Taeuber. Dada e oltre, April - July 2006, p. 62.
Strasbourg, Musée d'Art moderne et contemporain, Art is Art, Dessins, collages, reliefs, sculptures, poésie, October 2008 - February 2009, no. 140 (illustrated).
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
On occasion, Christie’s has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale, which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property. Christie’s may choose to assume this financial risk on its own or may contract with a third party for such third party to assume all or part of this financial risk. When a third party agrees to finance all or part of Christie’s interest in a lot, it takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold, and will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk out of Christie’s revenues from the sale, whether or not the third party is a successful bidder. The third party may bid for the lot and may or may not have knowledge of the reserves. Where it does so, and is the successful bidder, the remuneration may be netted against the final purchase price. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. Christie’s guarantee of a minimum price for this lot has been fully financed through third parties

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Antoine Lebouteiller
Antoine Lebouteiller

Lot Essay

Abstract, yet intensely sensual, La femme amphore is one of Jean Arp’s final 1920s bas-reliefs, executed by the artist in 1929, just before he began working on his series of sculptures in the round the following year. Composed of a painted wood surface on which a small relief has been attached, the work straddles the realms of painting and sculpture. In La femme amphore, Arp drags our attention to the central element, nestled within its contoured outline, engaging the viewer’s eye; at the same time, the curvaceous relief element adds an intriguing tactile quality.

Organic in its supple contours and abstract in its forms, La femme amphore recalls a series of analogies and associations through the process that was often at the core of Arp’s bas-reliefs. With broad hips and four limbs, the small relief at the centre of the picture evokes the body of a woman. Its sinuous form is echoed and condensed in the pink area that surrounds it. The title – ‘the woman amphora’ – creates a bond between these two forms, linking them by association. 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 – be it words or forms. In their bold refusal of established means of representations, ‘Object-language’ works such as La femme amphore stemmed directly from Arp’s involvement with Dada.

Arp had in fact begun to compose his reliefs during his Dada years. Amorphous and assembled from different layers of painted wood, those early works were supposed to introduce the chaos and arbitrary mechanisms of nature into art: ‘Dada is senseless like nature and life’, Arp explained, ‘Dada is for nature and against art. Like nature Dada wants to give everything its essential place’ (quoted in E. Robertson, ‘Everyday Miracles: Arp’s Object-Language’, pp. 98-103, in Hans Arp Die Natur der Dinge, exh. cat., Rolandseck, 2007, p. 99). In the second half of the 1920s, however, Arp’s bas-reliefs started to integrate more recognisable elements, which, for their organic quality, evoked more complex chains of associations.

During the late 1920s, Arp became involved with the Surrealist group in Paris. In 1925 he exhibited in the First Group Exhibition at the Galerie Pierre and in 1926 one of his reliefs was illustrated in La Révolution surréaliste. The following year, Arp had his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Surréaliste. In 1928, André Breton concluded his seminal essay Surrealism and Painting by discussing Arp’s bas-reliefs’ ability to transcend their objectiveness: ‘Arp’s reliefs (…) represent for me the most effective summing-up of the degree to which particular things can achieve generality and permit me to place a very low value indeed of the variant’ (A. Breton, ‘Surrealism and Painting’, pp. 1-48, in A. Breton, Surrealism and Painting, London, 1972, p. 47). The fluidity of meanings which Arp’s bas-reliefs provoked and their seemingly spontaneous execution must have been enticing to the Surrealists. At the same time, the Surrealists’ ideas on the unconscious, sexual mechanisms of the mind may have, if not influenced, at least enriched some of Arp’s bas-reliefs. Seen through the Surrealist lenses, La femme amphore appears as a surprisingly sexually tinged object. In an ulterior series of associations, the forms at the centre of La femme amphore – which signify the female figure – dissolve into the shape of a female sex, surrounded by a gaping black void. La femme amphore becomes, then, a visual synecdoche, transforming the sexual core of the female body into the very signifier of its form. Because of this symbolic malleability and the wealth of associations of Arp’s bas-reliefs, in 1929 – the year La femme amphore was executed– the artist found himself in a dispute between Breton’s Surrealist camp and the dissident group that had formed around Georges Bataille and his journal Documents. Arp, who at the time also sympathised with the abstract views of groups such as Abstraction-Création, managed to avoid declaring his allegiance to any of the groups. Eric Robertson, however, perceived in La femme amphore the signs of an intellectual exchange between Breton and Arp (E. Robertson, Arp: Painter, Poet, Sculptor, London, 2006, p. 71-74).

Opening his discussion on Arp, Breton had written 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, op. cit., p. 46). Associating an amphora – hence an empty ‘vessel’ – with the female form, La femme amphore 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 La femme amphore moreover – from abstract organic form, to female body, to female sex, to amphora – is a brilliant example of Breton’s phrase, a ‘communicating vessel’. Robertson concludes: ‘Breton’s reflections on Arp’s work, and Arp’s response to them, suggest that both men were fascinated by the creative potential of combining the methods of textual and visual production, and by the metamorphic possibilities of naming objects’ (E. Robertson, op. cit., p. 74).

In its irreverent transformations, La femme amphore also expresses a humorous dimension that is perfectly in keeping with Arp’s art. Reduced to its intimate, hidden body part, the human form is desecrated, perhaps even mocked for its vanity. Moreover, the organic, microbic shapes which form the work hint at the invisible cellular world hidden in the human body, adding another layer of meaning to the work, suggesting a bewildering confrontation of macro and micro in this palimpsest motif. Throughout his 1920s bas-reliefs, Arp sought to objectify the human form. Scornfully, he admitted: ‘During the twenties I was especially interested in objects, by which I also mean man, that obelisk-bonbon’ (J. Arp, ‘Arpadian Encyclopedia’, pp. 355-358, in M. Jean, ed., Arp: Collected French Writings, London, 1974, p. 355). In active Dada spirit, Arp demoted the human figure to the level of an object, to a casual shape modelled by nature. In La femme amphore, Arp operated this transformation by dissolving the human silhouette into a vaginal pink shape. Jane Hancock, moreover, perceived the slight diagonal orientation of the forms in works such as La femme amphore as a further insult to humans’ noble, erect presence in the world: ‘[Arp] based many figures and objects on symmetrical designs, but distorted the symmetry with a diagonal thrust effectively undermining the solemnity of the images’ (J. Hancock, ‘The Figure and Its Attributes: Dada and Surrealism’, pp. 88-89, in Arp: 1886-1966, exh. cat., Minneapolis, 1987, p. 89). In 1948, Arp explained his aim: ‘I wanted to find another order, another value for man in nature. He was no longer to be the measure of all things, no longer to reduce everything to his own measure, but on the contrary, all things and man were to be like nature, without measure. I wanted to create new appearances, extract new forms from man’ (J. Arp, ‘I Became More and More Removed from Aesthetics’, pp. 237-238, in M. Jean, ed., op. cit., p. 237). Throwing new bridges between words,shapes and meaning and teeming with sexual undertones, La femme amphore brilliantly captures Arp’s 1920s complex and compelling position at the crossroads between Dada and Surrealism.

Since 1977 a large part of the estates of both Hans Arp and his first wife, the Swiss artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp, has been preserved by the Jean Arp and Sophie Taeuber Arp Foundation. The Foundation is actively engaged in making their collection, archives and library holdings available to further independent international research into the work of both artists. From Autumn 2014 the catalogue raisonné of sculptures by Arp will be accessible online, thus creating a complete listing of all casts in existence and opening up a transparent discussion about Arp’s oeuvre. In addition, the Foundation will offer research grants. An oral history project will also collect historic and personal facts about the life and work of the two artists in digital format. The first of a planned series of conferences will take place in 2015 at the American Academy in Berlin, entitled “Hans Arp and the USA” and focusing on how widely Arp’s work resonated in the United States, particularly after 1945. The proceeds of the sale of La femme amphore will be used by the Foundation to support these ongoing projects.

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