Ionel Jianou, Jean Arp, Paris, 1973, no. 18, catalogued p. 72, no. 104, illustration of the plaster
Hommage à Jean Arp (exhibition catalogue), Galerie Denise René, Paris, 1974, no. 50, illustration of the plaster
Serge Fauchereau, Arp, London, 1989, no. 91, illustration of another cast p. 75
The present work, conceived in 1950, dates from one of the most successful periods in Arp's artistic career. More than three decades earlier, Arp became a member of the radical Dada group in Switzerland in 1916. During this time he formulated an artistic philosophy that would challenge most established forms of artistic representation for many years to come. When in 1917 he wrote that he wanted "to find another order, another value for man in nature," he heralded the credo that would continue to govern his sculptures more than forty years later. Although the highly polished form of the present work demonstrates the sleek modernist aesthetic that had also been taken up by Brancusi and Laurens, its amorphous and irregular shape evidences some of the central themes of Arp's original manifesto. "All things, and man as well, should be like nature, without measure," he wrote as a young man. "I wanted to create new appearances, to extract new forms from man" (quoted in Serge Fauchereau, Hans Arp, Barcelona, 1988, p. 15).
By the time he conceived of the present sculpture in 1950, Arp had found a clear and innovative voice for his artistic inspiration. His work in sculpture from these years met with great critical success, leading him to prominent exhibitions in Paris and New York and a grand prize at the Venice Biennale in 1954. His artistic output around this time ranged from low-relief sculpture to poetry, but it was his work in free-standing figural sculpture that most consumed him. With its vibrant and graceful energy, Figure Mythique is a brilliant example from this prolific and successful time for the artist.
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