Jean Hans Arp was born between Strasbourg in the Alsace region that sits between France and Germany. Because his father was German and his mother was French, Arp was given two sets of names – Hans Peter Wilhelm and Jean Pierre Guillaume. From 1900 to 1908, Arp studied at various art schools in Alsace and Paris, but soon became disenchanted with academia. In 1910, Arp began to connect with artists he had met in Paris. Thanks to these connections and easy access to modern art, Jean Arp soon found himself in the company of Tristan Tzara and Hugo Ball. Together in 1916 Zurich, Switzerland, they founded the Dada movement.
Dada was born in the mist of chaos and confusion. The coming of World War I and the rapid changes of western culture made the public unsure of the reality they where inhabiting. Dadaism was the reaction to this sense of disorder. Dadaists mistrusted human judgment, believing that was what led to atrocities such as war. Dadaist artists attempted to find ways to eliminate human subjectivity in the creation of art. A contribution that Arp was known for was his cutout compositions. Jean Arp achieved this by dropping pieces of paper onto the canvas and gluing them where they generally fell. In these works, very little human judgment is forced onto the composition. Arp would go as far as to cut the paper with a paper-cutter to further remove himself from the process.
Arp’s sculptures had an element of change in them. Among the first to utilize biomorphism, Jean Arp took organic shapes from nature and turned them abstract. The sculptures were often first molded in plaster, which is easily malleable and allows for a greater amount of change. The final works were then done in bronze. These sculptures were among the first of their kind and are as intriguing now as they were then.
In the late 1920s, Jean Arp become more involved in the Surrealist movement and in 1931 turned towards a more geometric mode. He went on to join similar movements and art groups. Like his works, he was fluid and always shifting. However, even in his later career, he remained true to what had initially driven him.