Jean Arp once recounted a conversation he had with Piet Mondrian, in which the latter, drawing upon the symbolist heritage of the late nineteenth century, established art and nature as opposing principles. Arp voiced his disagreement because he viewed art as a process that unites man and nature (C. Giedion-Welcker, Jean Arp, London, 1957, p. xxvii). Moreover, he seems to have seen himself as a creative force, as an artist who produces nature. For instance, he explained his disapproval of the application of the term "abstract" to his work: "We do not wish to copy nature. We do not want to reproduce, we want to produce. We want to produce as a plant produces a fruit and does not itself reproduce. We want to produce directly and without mediation. As there is not the least trace of abstraction in this art, we will call it concrete art" (quoted in S. Fauchereau, Arp, Barcelona, 1988, p. 20). By "concrete", Arp meant something that grows organically. In contrast, he referred to Constantin Brancusi's outwardly similar work as "abstract sculpture," suggesting that the other artist began with a subject and pared it down to a purer and more essential form.
Arp's emphasis on the generative impulse and the act of becoming is strongly reflected in the welling sense of growth one always senses in his sculpture. Notably, he was fascinated with plaster from childhood, a method that emphasizes addition rather than subtraction. His works in marble, stone, or granite were always based on a plaster model, and he always asked that bronze versions, such as Colonne de muse, be cast in the cire perdue technique, in which the plaster is preserved. Also in line with his interest in nature, Arp's subjects were most often the human form, and he generally preferred rounded forms; the torso and navel feature prominently. Coquille formée par une main humaine, 1935, is a plaster work (coated with milk) that evokes the curves and crevasses of a seashell while the title clearly indicates its origins in a human: the artist as creator (Centre Pompidou, Paris). The word "muse" in the title of Colonne de muse also suggests the creative process, the source of the artist's inspiration.
Arp began making sculpture in the round around 1928-30, and he never again stopped working in this medium. Colonne de muse, conceived only a year before he died, exhibits his iconic rounded forms and sense of metamorphosis, while also displaying his late emphasis on verticality, which he said pointed to infinity. Maria Lluosa Borràs notes, "At times, during the last years of his life, Arp emphasized the organic forms by accentuating their geometrical outline, playing with the dichotomies between rational subjective, geometrical natural, and combining square with round, the curved with the straight" ("Jean Arp, invention of forms," Jean Arp: invenció de formes, Barcelona, 2001, p. 397).