We thank the Fondation Arp, Clamart, for their help cataloguing this work.
Arp conceived Echo de torse in marble in 1961, one year before his important retrospective in Paris and New York. With this sculpture, the artist revisits one of his earlier works, Torse (fig. 1), which was originally carved in marble in 1931. Torse was one of two abstracted bodies that the artist identified as his first works in the round. Having previously created reliefs and other primarily frontal compositions of biomorphic forms, it was in his artistic exploration of the human body that Arp was able to give full expression to the analogy of human and vegetal forms that was the inspiration for much of his subsequent oeuvre. Recalling the creative epiphany that led to these important works, Arp commented:
"For many years, roughly from the end of 1919 to 1931, I interpreted most of my works. Often the interpretation was more important for me than the work itself. Suddenly my need for interpretation vanished, and the body, the form, the supremely perfected work became everything to me. In 1930 I went back to the activity which the Germans so eloquently call Hauerei (hewing). I engaged in sculpture and modeled in plaster. The first products were two torsos" (quoted in Arp, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1958, p. 14).
Arp arrived at the forms in his sculptures in a gradual manner, taking his inspiration from the shapes suggested to him by the natural world, as well as from his own body of existing work. In 1960, he carved another, smaller version of the 1931 Torse, also in marble. Preoccupied with the form, he further investigated its possibilities in the present work, Echo de torse. Here the artist horizontally bisects the figure, and places each half next to the other on the same plane, perched upon the rectangular base that he employed in both versions of Torse. How the top and bottom of Torse interact with and relate to one another in their newly occupied spaces is the subject of Echo de torse. The smoothly rounded and sensually undulating forms of the human body take on new meaning through Arp’s disruption of his own previous creation.