Lot 2
  • 2

Jean Arp

180,000 - 250,000 GBP
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  • Jean Arp
  • Point-virgule
  • painted wood relief on board in the artist’s painted frame
  • 51 by 32.7cm.
  • 20 1/8 by 12 7/8 in. (including frame)


André Breton, Paris (acquired from the artist)

Private Collection, France (by descent from the above. Sold: Calmels Cohen, Paris, André Breton. 42, rue Fontaine, 14th April 2003, lot 4246)

Purchased at the above sale


Paris, Galerie Surréaliste, Arp, 1927, no. 13

Mexico City, Galería de Arte Mexicano, Exposición internacional del surrealism, 1940, no. 1, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, André Breton, la beauté convulsive, 1991, illustrated in the catalogue

Bilbao, Bilbao Bizkaia Kutxa Fundazioa, Arp, 2001, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, Jan Krugier Gallery & Richard L. Feigen & Co., Drawing in Space, 2007-08, no. 2, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Strasbourg, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Art is Arp: dessins, collages, reliefs, sculptures, poésie, 2008-09, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


La revolution surréaliste, quatrième année, no. 11, 15th March 1928, illustrated p. 4

Galerie Beaux-Arts (ed.), Exposition international du Surrealism. Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme, Paris, 1938, illustrated p. 1938

Bernd Rau, Hans Arp, Die Reliefs: Œuvre-Katalog, Stuttgart, 1981, p. 121a, illustrated p. 65


The board is stable. There is a line of retouching corresponding to a repair on the central element and some further scattered spots of retouching in the central relief element and a few very small spots of retouching to the artist's frame visible under unltra-violet light. This work is in good, stable condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although the artist's frame is slightly less red in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

 In 1925 Arp arrived in Paris and took a studio neighbouring those of Max Ernst and Joan Miró in the Villa des Fusains at 22 rue Tourlaque. Over the next few years he created a number of painted reliefs, of which Point-virgule is an exceptional example. Situated amidst the avant-garde artists of Montmartre, Michel Seuphor suggests that whilst ‘Arp had at this point associated himself with the Surrealist movement’ it coincided with the moment when ‘his reliefs approached their most perfect’ (M. Seuphor, op. cit., Stuttgart, 1981, p. xxiv). In Paris Arp submersed himself in work; creating highly inventive reliefs that possessed a potent biomorphic idiom which had evolved from his earlier Dadaist imagery. Point-virgule’s overlapping contours and colours transcend anatomical classification and embody Arp’s sensuous aesthetic. The title ‘semi-colon’ suggests Arp’s visual identification of his sculpture with poetry, and in particular, the structural verse which both the Dada and Surrealist writers with whom he associated were experimenting with at the time.

The first owner of Point-virgule was the writer and leader of the Surrealist group André Breton, for whom the literary symbolism of the work would have held great significance. Initially associated to the Zurich Dada group, Arp became known to Breton, and along with other promising artists and writers was induced to join Breton in Paris. As Eric Robertson writes:  ‘Arp was without doubt the most creative, and the most introspective, of the Zurich group. According to Huelsenbeck [the Dada poet], “he only cared about the revolutionary implications of our artistic activities and hence of art in general”. Of these “revolutionary implications”, perhaps the most significant was the rejection of traditional painting styles and techniques. Arp shunned not only figurative illusionism, but even the medium of oil on canvas, evolving instead at an early stage what became constants of his mature work: semi-abstract biomorphic drawings and painted wooden reliefs in a heavily restricted palette, inhabited by a personal cosmogony of bottles, navel, torsos and heads’ (E. Robertson, Arp: Painter, Poet, Sculptor, New Haven & London, 2006, pp. 70-71).