Art History 101

Who was Hans Arp?

A versatile figure in the art world, Hans Arp’s sculptures, paintings, and collages implied both figurative and natural forms while remaining purely abstract at their essence. His influence can be found deeply rooted in the ethos of two major modernists movements, Dada and Surrealism.

Born to a French mother and German father, Arp spent his life as a nomad. His origins are reflected in how he was known; in German, he was called “Hans,” while in France, he was called “Jean.” During the first decade of the 20th century, Arp traveled between the two countries to study at various art schools, pursuing his interest in both art and poetry.

Throughout his travels, Arp befriended numerous artists and poets, each leaving their personal mark on modernism. Arp collaborated with members of several different modern art movements such as Der Blaue Reiter with artists Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc; Dadaists with artists Hannah Hoch and Raoul Hausmann; and Surrealists with artists Man Ray and Joan Miro.

While it is Arp’s organic, undulating forms that define his style, he developed the notion of the accidental in art. His first artworks involving chance were his collage artworks, in which he tore pieces of paper and dropped them onto a backdrop.

Arp evolved the style seen in his collages, initially creating relief sculptures and progressing to bronze and stone sculptures. In time, his three-dimensional abstract artworks would become his signature style. 

Arp’s ideas on chance greatly appealed to the Dadaist movement in which chaos and randomness reigned as the first source of inspiration. Surrealists also believed chance was used to delve into the unconscious mind.

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About the Author

Evangelyn Delacare is the Associate Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service at