Hans Arp (also Jean or Jean-Pierre-Guillaume, born Hans Peter Wilhelm Arp)

Strasbourg, 1886–Basel, 1966

Although mostly known as a visual artist and poet, as well as recognized for his contributions to Dada, Hans (Jean) Arp also facilitated the diffusion of knowledge about modern art, and Cubism in particular, throughout the German-speaking world.

Born to a French mother and a German father, Arp first studied art at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers in his native city of Strasbourg and later in Weimar and Paris, where he enrolled at the Kunstschule and the Académie Julian respectively. During this period, he also traveled across Central and Eastern Europe as well as Switzerland, where he became involved in art dealing.

Between 1910 and 1913, Arp joined several artist groups and began to exhibit his work. In 1910, he co-founded the Moderne Bund, an artists association in Switzerland that promoted contemporary French and Swiss art, and that organized the earliest known showing of Cubist art in Switzerland at Lucerne’s Hôtel du Lac in December 1911. Arp also frequented the circle of Blaue Reiter artists in Munich as well as the group around art dealer and impresario Herwarth Walden in Berlin. In 1913, he worked at the latter’s gallery Der Sturm for a few months. Moreover, Arp befriended such fellow artists as Robert Delaunay, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Vassily Kandinsky, Hilla Rebay, and Sophie Taeuber. After witnessing the latest artistic developments throughout Europe, Arp published the popular 1913 book Neue französische Malerei. A collaboration with his longtime friend, the art critic Lucien H. Neitzel, the publication further familiarized audiences within the German-speaking world with Cubism and contemporary Parisian art.

In 1915, just months after the onset of the First World War, Arp moved from Paris to neutral Switzerland to escape serving in the German army. He also reconnected with prewar acquaintances such as the art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler during his Swiss exile. Arp introduced Kahnweiler’s writings to the Alsatian editor and writer René Schickele, who in turn published the former’s essay “Der Kubismus” in 1916. That year, Arp also became involved with a group of émigré artists that had formed the global Dada movement, including the German-born author and poet Hugo Ball and his circle at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich as well as the Romanian-born artists Marcel Janco and Tristan Tzara.

Neither able to obtain residency in Zurich nor permitted to permanently re-enter France, Arp remained mostly in Switzerland after the war, but traveled to Berlin, Cologne, Paris, Strasbourg, and Tirol, Austria. In 1920, for example, he joined Ernst and Johannes Baargeld in Cologne, where the latter had launched a local Dada chapter after producing two controversial exhibitions, Gruppe D (Dada) (November 1919) and Dada-Vorfrühling (April 1920), and several publications, among them Bulletin D, Der Ventilator and Die Schammade. As he had done before the war, Arp continued to author numerous texts on art. These included Die Kunstismen = Les ismes de l'art = The isms of art (1925), a trilingual publication co-written with Russian artist El Lissitzky that was one of the few books to link Eastern and Western artistic developments. That November Arp also participated in the group exhibition La peinture surréaliste at the Galerie Pierre in Paris, initiating his long affiliation with Surrealism. He and Taeuber, whom he married in 1922, finally moved to the French capital in 1929.

From the 1930s onward, Arp continued to write and publish poetry. During the Second World War, he fled the German occupation of Paris, moving first to southern France and then, in 1942, to Zurich, where he stayed until the end of the war. He moved once again to France and back to Switzerland, where he remained until his death.

For more information, see:

Arp, Hans, and El Lissitzky, eds. Die Kunstismen = Les ismes de l'art = The isms of art. Erlenbach-Zürich, Munich, and Leipzig: Eugen Rentsch, 1925.

Arp, Hans, and Lucien H. Neitzel. Neue französische Malerei. Leipzig: Verlag der Weissen Bücher, 1913.

Craft, Catherine, et al. The Nature of Arp. Exh. cat. Dallas, Tex.: Nasher Sculpture Center, 2018.

Hans Arp, der Nabel der Avantgarde. Exh. cat. Berlin: Georg-Kolbe-Museum, 2015.

Soby, James Thrall, ed. Arp. Exh. cat. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1958.

Suter, Rudolf. Hans Arp: Das Lob der Unvernunft: Eine Biografie. Zürich: Scheidegger & Spiess, 2016.

The Stiftung Hans Arp, e.V., in Berlin preserves copies of a large section of Hans Arp’s literary estate and papers. The original documents, however, are housed at the Fondation Arp in Clamart near Paris as part of a trusteeship with the German foundation.

How to cite this entry:
Mahler, Luise, " Hans Arp (also Jean or Jean-Pierre-Guillaume, born Hans Peter Wilhelm Arp)," The Modern Art Index Project (November 2019), Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. https://doi.org/10.57011/LXNW6829