Lot 34
  • 34

JEAN ARP | Torse

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
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  • Jean Arp
  • Torse
  • Inscribed with the artist's monogram, numbered 3/3 and inscribed with the foundry mark Susse Fondr Paris (on the interior)
  • Bronze
  • Height (including base): 38 1/4 in.
  • 97.1 cm
  • Conceived in 1931; this example cast during the artist's lifetime, between 1958 and 1960, by Susse Fondeur, Paris.


Roslyn Rubin, New York (and sold by the estate: Christie's, New York, May 15, 1986, lot 342)

Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)

Thence by descent 


Carola Giedion-Welcker, Modern Plastic Art, Zurich, 1937, illustration of another cast p. 97 (dated 1933)

Michel Seuphor, Arp, Paris, 1957, illustration of the marble p. 27

Carola Giedion-Welcker, Hans Arp, Stuttgart, 1957, no. 8, illustration of the marble pp. 86 & 87

Ernst Scheidegger,ed., Zweiklang. Sophie Taeuber-Arp/Hans Arp, Zurich, 1960, illustration of another cast in the artist's studio p. 66

Michel Sephor, Petite encyclopedie de l’art, New York, 1964, no. 6, illustration of the marble n.p.

Herbert Read, Arp, London, 1968, no. 90, illustration of another cast p. 86 (with incorrect measurements)

Ionel Jianou, Jean Arp, Paris, 1973, no. 8, catalogued p. 66

Stefanie Poley, Hans Arp. Die Formensprache im plastischen Werk, Stuttgart, 1978, illustration of the plaster p. 77

Margherita Andreotti, The Early Sculpture of Jean Arp, London, 1989, no. 21, illustration of another cast pp. 184-85 Arie Hartog & Kai Fischer, Hans Arp. Sculptures. A Critical Survey, Ostfildern, 2012, no. 8, illustration of the marble pp. 67 & 241

Catalogue Note

Conceived in 1931, Torse embodies the transcendent physical beauty that characterizes Arp’s oeuvre. Its elegant, elongated form is subtly reminiscent of a female torso. This sense of purity bears strong stylistic, technical and poetic affinities with the work of Constantin Brancusi. As Stephanie Poley observed: "Arp was concerned with purity, with being free, being independent of everything unpleasant and limiting and with the active, constant emission of positive energy as well as its perception" (S. Poley in Arp (exhibition catalogue), Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 1987, p. 229). The allusion to the female nude perhaps derives from Arp’s early drawings of this subject, which date to well before his execution of biomorphic shapes. Without extremities or any literal articulation of detail, however, Torse succeeds in expressing Arp’s passionate sense of the female body in the suggestions of its curves and folds: its wholeness lies in its power to evoke. Eduard Trier observed: “Arp knows only the torso, but not as a fragment of something originally whole. The torso becomes an independent complete form” (E. Trier, Jean Arp: Sculpture, 1957-66, London, 1968, p. XI).

In the 1930s, Arp’s work took a new direction. Having already incorporated abstracted shapes into his wall reliefs, he began to expand into biomorphic sculpture, developing a highly distinct and broad vocabulary of organic forms in the round. For Arp, the form itself became of paramount importance and exceeded the need for representation or literal meaning. As the artist said: “For many years, roughly from the end of 1919 to 1931, I interpreted most of my works. Often the interpretation was more important for me than the work itself. Suddenly my need for interpretation vanished, and the body, the form, the supremely perfected work became everything to me. In 1930 I went back to the activity which the Germans so eloquently call Hauerei (hewing). I engaged in sculpture and modeled in plaster. The first products were two torsos” (quoted in F. M. Naumann, The Mary and William Sisler Collection, New York, 1984, p. 38).

The art of randomness was essential to Arp at this time: he saw "chance" as his active collaborator. This in itself was a progressive concept, for artists had long striven for a connoisseurial level of control. Arp, however, would generate his shapes first, and title them post-completion, thus eliminating as far as possible the interference of the conscious mind, something which his fellow Surrealist artists also experimented with. As such, Arp created forms of unique distinction, clearly inspired by the natural shapes around him but succeeding in transcending the restrictions of the tangible. Alfred Barr in 1958 described Arp as a "one-man laboratory for the discovery of the new form"  (quoted in Arp (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1958, p. 7).