Today is the birthday of French avante-garde artist Jean Arp. The sculptor and painter, who when speaking in German referred to himself as Hans, would turn 126 years old today if he were still magically alive today.

arp
Jean Arp

Arp began his artistic training in his native town of Strassburg, Germany (now Strasbourg, France), eventually moving to Paris to experiment in collage, printmaking, sculpture, painting and poetry amongst the company of Modigliani, and Picasso. But he was forced to leave France when World War I broke out, seeking refuge in Zurich, Switzerland, where he would produce some of his first painted reliefs and establish himself as one of the founders of the Dada movement.

His art associations changed after the war, as the artist took up residence with the Surrealists, the Abstraction-Creation movement and later the Cercle et Carre group. Obsessed with the concepts of chance and biomorphism, his works during this period were like large-scale Rorschach ink blots in different media from bronze to lithograph to wood. He was also known for incorporating waste material like torn and pasted paper into his work long before junk art became popular.

During World War II, Arp and his wife, artist Sophie Taeuber, ventured back to Zurich.

Upon returning to France after his second exile, Arp began exhibiting his work in the US, showing at the Buchholz Gallery, creating reliefs for Harvard University, and later hosting a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Before his career ended, he also completed a mural for a UNESCO building in Paris, won the Grand Prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale and participated in an exhibition at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, France, in 1962.

Sadly, Arp passed four years later in Basel, Switzerland. But his legacy lives on as he is remembered as one of the most beloved avante-garde creators of the 20th century.

In honor of the late great's big day, we'd like to say, "Joyeux anniversaire, Jean" (or "Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Hans"!). Check out a slideshow of Arp's work below and let us know what you think of the artist in the comments section.

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  • "Cloud Shepherd," 1953

  • "Shirt Front and Fork," 1922

  • "Resting Leak," 1959

  • "Bewegtes Tanzgeschmeide," 1970

  • "Constellation According to the Laws of Chance," 1930

  • "Configuration," 1931

  • "Forme lunaire spectrale," 1950

  • "Concretion humaine sans coupe"

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