Jean Arp (1886-1966)
Multiple Femme V, 1956
7 7/8 × 7 1/4 inches (20 × 18.4 cm)
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Jean Arp was born Hans Arp in 1886 in Strasbourg, where he began studying art. He later moved to Weimar and Paris. Arp became a founding member of the Dada movement and worked as a poet before deciding, around 1930, to also become a sculptor. Two major retrospectives of Arp’s work were held during his lifetime: at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1958, followed by another at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, in 1962.
In 1956, Arp created a series of eight woodcuts to be published in a collection of poems by the French-German poet Yvan Goll titled Multiple Femme; however, the publishing house closed before the initial planned edition of fifty could be completed. In 1962, the Allen Press in California published a translated English edition, which also included graphics by Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso, and Yves Tanguy.
In September 1963, Donald Judd reviewed Arp’s exhibition of thirty-seven works from 1923 to 1963 at the Sidney Janis Gallery, writing:
Arp’s work is nearly always good, and so the exhibition is. . . . One of the interesting aspects of Arp’s sculpture, and a relevant one currently, is that a good piece is a whole which has no parts. The protuberances can never clearly be considered other, smaller units; even partially disengaged sections are kept from being secondary units within or adding up to a larger one. This lack of distinct parts forces you to see the piece as a whole.1