Bern University of Arts
Addressing the Reworkings of Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s Triptych (1918)
The three-part 1918 painting Triptych by Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889–1943) will be shown in the exhibition Sophie Taeuber-Arp at the Kunstmuseum Basel in spring 2021, and subsequently at the Tate Modern in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. There is much to be learned about its history, as it is heavily reworked. During the research for my master’s thesis in the field of conservation and restoration at the Hochschule der Künste in Bern, Switzerland, these reworkings will be examined in depth. Through technical examination of the work, comparative analyses, and research on Taeuber-Arp’s painting technique and processes as well as other reworkings by the artist, questions about the history of the object will be answered and the work will be contextualized within her oeuvre. These findings will be considered alongside technical and ethical aspects of restoration in order to develop a concept for addressing the reworkings.
A thorough technical analysis will provide the foundation for this project. Through macro- and microscopic examination of the surface in VIS and under UV excitation, material differences will be discerned, among other things. In-depth examination can reveal or illuminate the underdrawing, underpainting, and damage to the material structure, which in turn can pinpoint motivations for later reworkings. By means of microscopic cross-section analyses and chemical material analyses, temporal differentiations and correlations in the structure of the painting’s layers are to be identified or clarified. This will also make it possible to analyze additions as well as substances that differ from the original. The findings will then be compared to previous technical research on Taeuber-Arp’s painting technique.
The technical findings will be critically examined in relationship to the artist’s wider oeuvre. For this purpose, the comparative analyses of works will be central. In addition, select works will be examined. If necessary, they will be sampled for material analysis. Another important aspect of this research is the examination of Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s correspondence, sketchbooks, files, and diaries, as well as those of her husband, Hans Arp, with a focus on references to reworkings and temporal parameters. These lines of inquiry are significant to both the work itself as well as the artist’s oeuvre as a whole: Findings about the material structure, working procedures, and the condition of the work provide the basis for understanding the object history of Triptych. Examining the painting from the standpoint of conservation and restoration will make a decisive contribution to its reception. Other works by the artist were also reworked, finished, or recreated by her husband Hans Arp. Until now, no attempts to clarify these traces of reworking have been made from a technical conservation standpoint.
Bern University of Arts
Sophie Taeuber-Arp: The Techniques, Working Processes, and Materials of the Swiss Pioneer
The research project “Sophie Taeuber-Arp: The Techniques, Working Processes, and Materials of the Swiss Pioneer” will present a systematic and chronological analysis of this pathbreaking twentieth century modernist’s artistic techniques and working processes, as well as the materials used in her artworks (marionettes, sculptures, reliefs, and paintings).
The aim is to answer the following questions pertaining to her artistic materials: Did Taeuber-Arp acquire her painting utensils in stores, and can the manufacturers be determined? Did the artist use oil paint in tubes or tempera paint? In general, the project will address the question of which binding agents and systems she used.
Further questions relate to Taeuber-Arp’s artistic process and the authenticity of her works: Were partial egg white or wax varnishes applied by the artist upon completion? Or were paintings treated with a waxy mattifying substance after her death? Did Taeuber-Arp purposefully toy with the contrast between glossy and matte textures? How important was the surface aesthetic in terms of the overall intention of her works of fine and applied art?
More thorough technological examinations of positively identified works by Taeuber-Arp should, therefore, make it possible to identify the telltale signs of her working process. It is known that the artist Lili Erzinger completed, recreated, or “restored” works by Taeuber-Arp after her death, although the work of Erzinger’s hand has not yet been distinguished. Taeuber-Arp’s husband, Hans Arp, also continued to make and sell work from the Dada period in the name of Sophie Taeuber-Arp after her early and sudden death. After 1945, Arp’s assistant Marcel Schneider aided him in this process. For example, Schneider painted over wood reliefs, first with a brush and later with an airbrush.
Only after the multifaceted historical and technical aspects of Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s artworks have been documented can appropriate conservation and restoration strategies be developed for the future. It is also necessary to lay this groundwork in order to address any ethical questions that may arise.
The methodology for the technical examinations will encompass the natural sciences and the humanities. This established interdisciplinary approach involves evaluating and interpreting written and material sources, conducting optic and radiographic examinations of the painting techniques, as well as carrying out material analyses. Bringing together the results from these different fields of inquiry will help paint the richest picture of her work.
In terms of evaluating written sources, the project primarily involves consulting those letters, written records, and correspondence by the internationally connected artist that are held at the Stiftung Hans Arp und Sophie Taeuber-Arp e.V. in Berlin.
PhD Student in Art History
École normale supérieure de Paris & Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3 (France)
Hans Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Artist-Collectors During the First Half of the Twentieth Century
This research project is dedicated to the personal collection of Hans Arp and Sophie
Taeuber-Arp. Throughout their careers, the two artists surrounded themselves with the artworks of their colleagues. The donation Marguerite Arp-Hagenbach made to the Centre Pompidou between 1968 and 1973 contains more than twenty pieces by other artists that passed through the hands of Arp and Taeuber-Arp from the mid-1910s to the late 1940s. However, at the Stiftung Arp e.V. holds many other works by Max Ernst, Sonia and Robert Delaunay, Francis Picabia, Michel Seuphor, Raoul Hausmann, Richard Huelsenbeck, Tristan Tzara, and others. This research project, therefore, not only aims to shed light on all the artworks that belonged to the couple but also to understand the ways that Arp and Taeuber-Arp obtained them.
It is indeed a question of studying recurrent modes of acquisition among artists: gifts and exchanges. As the physical traces of personal relationships, these works include several portraits of Arp by his comrades as well as collective artworks, such as cadavres exquis. In this sense, the personal collection of Arp and Taeuber-Arp reflects both the experiments of the Dadaist group as well as the plastic language of each of the artists represented in the collection. The inventory of these artworks will be examined alongside the two artists’ correspondence with members of their circle. Indeed, such documents can reveal the circumstances in which the artworks were obtained, their dates of acquisition, and the motivations for their circulation.
This monographic research project will extend to other artist collections, notably those featuring artworks by Arp and Taeuber-Arp, such as those of André Breton, Anne Ethuin and Édouard Jaguer, Gottfried Honegger, Jean Gorin, Marcel Janco, Marcel Jean, Vassily Kandinsky, Tristan Tzara, and the Société Anonyme (Marcel Duchamp and Katherine S. Dreier). It will proceed with a spatial visualization of this network of artist-collectors to understand both the ways in which the artworks function as interconnections as well as to reveal the central actors. This transdisciplinary study, which encompasses art history and sociology, economics and digital humanities, thus addresses questions of collecting, the art market, artistic networks, and personal connections.
DR. ALICE ENSABELLA
University of Grenoble, France
Hans Arp and His First Parisian Dealers: Jaques Viot and Camille Goemans
How does an avant-garde group promote itself on the art market? How does a movement such as Surrealism—known for its anti-capitalist position—deal with the economic and financial questions concerning collecting, buying, and selling artworks? Strengthened by their independent, avant-garde position, Surrealists had imposed themselves autonomously on the art market since the movement’s foundation in 1924. The opening of the Galerie Surréaliste in 1926, followed by that of the Galerie Goemans in 1929, and the organization of collective exhibitions hosted by other galleries, clearly shows this attitude. By creating a network of collectors, dealers, critics, and auctioneers, Breton and the others managed to introduce early Surrealist artists into the flourishing Parisian art market of the 1920s without the help of a dealer.
The first promoters of Surrealist art were for the most part members of the movement. Besides the group’s founders, two other Surrealists played a key role in fostering the first generation of Surrealist artists: the writer Jacques Viot, an employee at the Galerie Pierre and the organizer of the first exhibition of Surrealist painting in 1925, and the Belgian poet and dealer Camille Goemans, the founder and director of the Galerie Goemans, which was open from 1929 to 1930.
In this context, the promotion of Hans Arp’s work after his arrival in Paris in 1925 is a perfect example of the key role these two agents played. The present research project aims to investigate the strategies put in place to promote Arp’s art, first by Jacques Viot (his agent between 1925 and 1927) and then by Camille Goemans (his agent from 1928 to 1930).
Viot met Arp at the artist’s studio in the rue Tourlaque, as did Goemans. Much remains to be learned about the relationship between Viot and Arp, as well as the terms of their agreement (if there was indeed an official one). However, Viot is certainly to be credited for Arp’s presence in the first exhibition of Surrealist painting and in the holdings of the Galerie Pierre. After Viot left Paris due to economic issues, Goemans took over and started promoting and dealing Arp’s work, both in Paris and Brussels. The recent discovery of the correspondence between Goemans and the Belgian collector Pierre Janlet shows not only that the dealer and the artist had a formal contract but also reveals valuable information concerning the sales and trade of his work the Belgian and French capitals. The centrality of Arp’s work to Goemans’s business and the proximity between the two is confirmed by the fact that the Galerie Goemans’s opening exhibition in November 1929 was dedicated to Hans Arp. Moreover, Sophie Tauber-Arp designed the gallery spaces.
Retracing the history of Arp’s relationship with his first French and Belgian dealers, as well as the circulation of his works, could shed new light on the commercial success of his art during the early years of Surrealism. This research could offer a new perspective on the history of the promotion of Hans Arp’s work and, more generally, on the commercial strategies for fostering early Surrealist art on the Parisian market during the late 1920s.
Sophie Taeuber Arp’s relationship to printmaking.
At the Stiftung Arp e.V., I plan to research Sophie Taeuber Arp’s relationship to printmaking. While few examples from her lifetime are known, she did work in the medium, as did many contemporary modernists. She created a handful of engravings as well as some linocuts. Specifically, her collaborations on livres d’artistes must be considered and examined. In addition to the artists’ books published during her lifetime, posthumous editions issued after the war may include not only reprints but also previously unpublished works. The Album Grasse, about which I have given a great deal of thought, was in fact meant to printed contemporaneously, but had to be postponed until after the war. Taeuber-Arp’s contributions to the project require much more thorough analysis.
Several things concern me. Did Sophie Taeuber Arp think of printmaking as merely another way to reproduce similar graphics she was working on at the same time? Or in the case of the Grasse portfolio, was she in fact the one to steer the group project, propelling it into new conceptual and visual territory? How carefully must we examine the work to understand that Sophie Taeuber-Arp, unlike many objective and later hard-edge artists, was in fact dealing with volume and perspective in a three-dimensional manner while sustaining the visual language of two dimensions? My work at the Stiftung Arp e.V. will take up these questions, among others.
DR. NICOLE HARTJE-GRAVE
Switzerland, c. 1930: Hans Arp and His Early Swiss Collectors Maja and Emanuel Hoffmann, Annie and Oskar Müller-Widman, and Clara and Emil Friedrich-Jezler
The planned research project “Switzerland, c. 1930” aims to address the subject of Hans Arp and his early Swiss collectors and to document these connections for the first time. Long before French, German, and American collectors recognized Arp’s significance, Maja and Emanuel Hoffmann and Annie and Oskar Müller-Widmann in Basel and Clara and Emil Friedrich-Jezler in Zürich became aware of him and acquired his works, especially the reliefs, as early as the beginning of the 1930s. With the exception of the Müller-Widmanns, the two other collector couples are widely known, but their early ties to Hans Arp have not yet been studied.
Why did they support Arp, who was relatively unknown in wider circles at the time, and how did the Basel gallery owner Marie-Suzanne Feigel, the art critic Carola Giedion-Welcker, and the Basel museum director Georg Schmidt influence the taste of the young collectors? Why was the first notable retrospective of Arp’s work hosted in Basel in 1932? And how did this network of collectors, art dealers, and museum professionals, who certainly knew each other and perhaps even fueled each other’s appreciation for Arp, function? With the help of the Stiftung Arp’s extensive library and archive, these questions will be addressed during a three-month research fellowship at the foundation in Berlin.
FABIAN KNÖBL and BRIGITTE KOVACS
Dada Walk 21
In their manifesto “Excursions et Visites,” which was codesigned by Hans Arp, the French Dada movement announced a series of urban explorations of banal Parisian sites during the first half of the twentieth century. The first—and, contrary to the original plan, also the only—excursion to the Church of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre took place on April 14, 1921. It became one of the most significant urban interventions in Dadaism and the basis for a series of deambulations and dérives, which were carried out by other artist groups, such as the Situationists, in the following decades.
The year 2021 marks the centennial of this early Dada action, which laid the foundation for walking both as a method of urban exploration as well as a means for producing art. In recognition of this anniversary and Arp’s participation in diverse international artists’ associations, Brigitte Kovacs (Austria) and Fabian Knöbl (Germany) are planning a transnational artistic research trip, primarily on foot, from the Arp Museum in Remagen, Germany, to the Church of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre in Paris, France. The journey, which will last several weeks, is intended to update walking as a means of artistic production and the exploration of space in times of climate change and increasing destruction of nature.
At the same time, the narrowing of the gap between art and life called for by the Dadaists will be put into practice. Specially designed signposts will be produced in advance and set up along the route, marking the chosen path and pointing in the directions of both Paris and Remagen. The ends of each signpost will be marked with a “DA” (the German word for “there,” in its sense as “to that place”). At the end of the journey, a commemorative plaque in the same style as the signposts will be installed in the immediate surroundings of the Church of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre in Paris, in recognition of this earlier Dada action. The installation of the signposts and commemorative plaque will result in a survey of the traversed space and with it a specifically designed system of signs: a cartography of walking as art.
The journey will be documented in the form of an artistic diary—consisting of texts, photographs, maps, found objects, plants, impressions and imprints, frottages, etc.—that will function both as a material portrait of the landscape as well as a guidebook. In the process, others will also be invited to follow in the footsteps of the Dadas. Furthermore, each day, a photo of the trip will be posted to Instagram (gladly on your Instagram account) in order to bring the analog process of walking into the digital sphere and to make the project widely accessible.
FERNANDA LOPES TORRES
Multirio – Municipal Company of Midias of Rio de Janeiro
Hans Arp and Sérgio Camargo: Concretion, Empirical Geometry, and Disenchantment with Enlightenment Reason
The organic reliefs and sculptures by the French-German artist Hans Arp (1886–1966) and the Brazilian artist Sérgio Camargo (1930–1990) are the results of distinct processes. Yet Arp’s sculpted forms and Camargo’s combinations of cut geometric solids both present a rare combination of order and chance. Indeed, their works explore relief’s potential to extend into space. While the revolutionary organic forms of Arp’s reliefs are carved or cast, the volume of Camargo’s reliefs is created through the combination of discrete elements. We plan to identify and analyze the similarities and differences between Arp and Camargo’s reliefs and sculptures, following the hypothesis that the abstract compositions evoking biomorphic human, animal, or other natural forms in Arp and the combinatory method that retains a sense of the organic in Camargo stem from different historical moments but nevertheless participate in modernist experimentalism, with its universal and yet atopic fate – whose horizon is the Real as invention and doubt. The juxtaposition of order and chance embodies the randomness of the everyday while revealing a certain disenchantment with Enlightenment reason.
Among the works by Arp that we plan to study are two reliefs that belong to public institutions in Brazil: Configuration (1955, bronze, Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro) and Expressive Forms (1932, painted wood, Museum of Contemporary Art, São Paulo University). The acquisition of these works by modern art museums that had recently been inaugurated indicates an interest for works apart from Swiss Concretism. In the historiography of Brazilian art, this conventional narrative has been reinforced by the history of the São Paulo Biennial, the inaugural edition of which awarded the first prize to the Swiss artist Max Bill’s Tripartite Unity (1948–49). The acquisition of Arp’s relief Expressive Forms, among other works, reveals that the artistic context in which modern art in Brazil evolved is in fact much more varied and diverse. The relief was shown for the first time at the exhibition From Figuration to Abstraction (1949), organized by the Belgian Léon Dégand, which also traveled to Rio de Janeiro. Furthermore, “French participation, which was greater and more significant, had artists connected to the geometric abstraction of the groups Cercle et Carré and Abstraction-Création,” observes Ana G. Magalhães.
Hans Arp’s white relief, the aforementioned Expressive Forms, bought by the museum patron Ciccillo Matarazzo in Paris between 1946 and 1947, relates to this context. Taking this into account seems important to comprehending the presence of Hans Arp’s work in the modern art of Brazil. It also enables the understanding of Sergio Camargo’s refusal of the social aesthetic pedagogy so characteristic of bureaucratic Constructivism.
Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France
Dada movement and dance
The research project I want to develop at the Stiftung Arp e.V. is part of my doctoral research about the Dada movement and dance. I wish to draw attention to the presence of dance in Dada activities in order to give it back its rightful place and role in Dada history. To do so, I am interested in Dadaists’ perception of dance and their interactions with dancers and choreographers. I would like to better understand the purpose of dance at Dada events and to underline the fact that the presence of dance and dancers may have impacted the Dadaists’ artistic production.
The city of Zurich is significant to the history of Dada and dance. With the dance theoretician Rudolf Laban and his students in town, the Dadaists engaged in a dialogue with the dance world. Moreover, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, who was a teacher at the School of Applied Art, a Dadaist, and a student of Laban, is a key figure of the social and artistic blend between Dada and dance.
During my stay at the Stiftung Arp e.V, I aim to investigate how Sophie Taeuber-Arp was able to transpose her dance practice into her artworks. Specifically, I hope to underline the traces of this transposition through her use of space, geometric form, and color to encapsulate energy and movement. I also wish to use this time to look into Hans Arp’s relation to dance, especially through his collaborations with his wife.