Lot 31
  • 31

JEAN ARP | Nez et fauteuil

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Jean Arp
  • Nez et fauteuil
  • oil on board relief 
  • 23 by 30.7cm.
  • 9 by 12 1/8 in.
  • Executed in 1925.


Max Ernst, Paris (acquired by 1927) Private Collection (1981)

Galerie St. Gilles, Zurich (sold: Sotheby's, London, 9th December 1997, lot 259)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Paris, Galerie Surréaliste, Arp, 1927, no. 30 (titled Nez, canapé) Scottsdale, Arizona, Desert Art School, Surrealist Exhibition, 1951, illustrated in the catalogue


Bernd Rau (ed.), Hans Arp. Die Reliefs Œuvre-Katalog, Stuttgart, 1981, no. 70, illustrated p. 41 (with incorrect medium)

Catalogue Note

Cut-outs and assembled reliefs held a central place in Arp’s work throughout his career, from the time of his collaboration with the Dada group in Zurich, to his mature and highly productive period of the 1950s and 1960s. Guided by chance and intuition, the artist created organic, irregular shapes evocative of natural forms and parts of the human anatomy. Although he developed a highly abstract pictorial vocabulary, in his cut-outs and wood reliefs Arp always established a connection between these biomorphic forms and elements of the natural world in such a way as to unveil the mysterious and poetic elements hidden in everyday images. As he once wrote in a letter to a friend: ‘Dada is for nature and against “art”. Dada is, like nature, “direct”, and seeks to give everything its essential place in nature. Dada is for infinite sense and definite means’ (quoted in Herbert Read, Arp, London, 1968, p. 72).  

Nez et fauteuil was executed in 1925, the year when Arp moved to Paris, taking a studio at 22 rue Tourlaque, neighbouring those of Max Ernst and Joan Miró. Arp’s involvement with the Surrealist group had grown through his acquaintance with these artists as well as with André Breton. His works from this period evolved from his earlier Dada imagery, while adopting a less abstract manner and at the same time pointing to his interest in Constructivism. The principle of chance that led Arp in the creation of his cut-outs and reliefs shows a great affinity with the philosophy of Surrealist artists, as does his tendency to depict forms evocative of human body in a humorous, sometimes grotesque manner. The present composition is dominated by boldly coloured red and yellow forms against a neutral, white background. Despite the flatness of the composition, the shadow-like feature along the top and left of the composition gives it a sense of depth. Executed shortly after the dissolution of the Dada movement and in the early days of Surrealism, Nez et fauteuil shows the influence of both philosophies on Arp’s work, and is a powerful example of his work in this medium.

Shortly after its execution, Nez et fauteuil was acquired by Max Ernst, in whose collection it remained for several decades. Ernst loaned the work for Arp's first one-man show, held at Galerie Surréaliste in Paris in 1927. In the exhibition catalogue André Breton wrote: '... un nez est parfaitement à sa place à côté d'un fauteuil...'.