Conceived in 1959, Figure-germe dite "L'Après-midinette"
was cast in an edition of six numbered 0/V
by the Georges Rudier foundry in Paris and is an arresting example of Arp’s mature sculpture, displaying a formal purity and a high degree of abstraction that characterize his most accomplished works. Its elegant, elongated form is subtly reminiscent of a human figure, while its simplicity and smooth, polished surface transcend human form, metamorphosing into sometime evocative and subjective. This abstract, transcendental quality bears strong stylistic, technical and poetic affinities with the work of Constantin Brancusi (see fig. 1). 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 Museum of Art, Minneapolis, 1987, p. 229).
Guided by chance and intuition, the artist created his own organic, irregular geometry. Although he developed a highly abstract pictorial vocabulary, 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 the environment around us. Arp enjoyed seeing his sculptures in natural settings, including the large bronzes and carvings placed in the garden outside his villa at Meudon, on the outskirts of Paris, where they could merge into the landscape and become one with nature. Such motifs of Arp's late work find resonance in Tony Cragg's contemporary sculpture (see fig. 2). Like Arp's figural abstractions, Cragg's reflective, undulating forms capture the tension of beings caught between paradoxical states of organicism and deliberate orchestration.
The legendary art historian and museum director Alfred Barr once described Jean Arp as a “one-man laboratory for the discovery of new form” (quoted in J.T. Soby, Arp (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1958, p. 7). The present work is indeed an extraordinary example of the artist's ability to take inspiration from natural forms around him, while always managing to transcend the realm of the tangible. The wonderfully organic and sensual quality of this sculpture is further enhanced by its title, which gives it a tender, romantic, as well as a playful note. The artist is inviting the viewer to join him in looking and marveling with fresh eyes at the forms that surround us: objects that when presented in an unfamiliar context or scale, look more like forms from the landscape of our subconscious. The viewer cannot help but be seduced by the sculpture’s undulating lines and admire the subtle yet voluptuous curves and shadowy crevices.