Astre en rêve [Dreaming star]

Jean ARP: artist

On Display

About the work

Born in Strasbourg, Jean Arp experienced during his formative years the diverse cultures of France and Germany and the magic of Alsatian folklore and spoke all three languages fluently. The medieval sculpture of that city made a strong impression on him and from early childhood he was interested only in art, making drawings and writing poems. At the age of sixteen he was allowed to begin study at art schools, but after two years at Weimar Academy of Fine Arts, the family moved to Switzerland and he worked entirely alone, making only brief visits to Paris for contact with modern art. Abstract art was a discovery he made for himself in searching for a means of expression essentially his own.

When the war of 1914 began Arp was living in Paris, meeting artists such as Amadeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso. Lack of money forced him to return to Switzerland and in Zurich he became one of the originators of Dada, that movement of protest and rebellion against the nationalism of war, repudiation of bureaucracy and 'rationalised progress'.

In 1915 he met Sophie Taeuber, who became his wife and collaborated with him in compositions of cloth and paper. Arp executed abstract reliefs, woodcuts and collages and wrote poetry turning to the subconscious automatic expression of surrealism. This surrealist affinity took him into that group when he returned to Paris in 1925 and he later settled at Meudon, his home for many years. Although he took part in the exhibitions of the group he never became involved in its political activities, nor did he subscribe fully to this idiom but continued his search for an image of inner meaning, believing 'Art should lead to spirituality, to a mystical reality'.1

It was not until 1930 that Arp began to create sculpture in the round, developing from the 'unconditional freedom' of Dada, through the 'law of chance' of the subconscious to the creation of forms invested with life, not copies of nature but holding in themselves the same esence of life. During the 1939-45 war Arp took refuge in Switzerland and afterwards returned to Meudon. His many exhibitions in America and Europe established an international reputation and he is considered to be one of the great sculptors of this century and also one of the finest French poets.

Arp has described sculpture in a poet's words, 'He who tries to bring down a cloud by shooting at it with arrows, will use his arrows in vain. Many sculptors resemble such strange hunters. What one should do is this: One should charm the cloud by fiddling on a drum or drumming on a violin. Before long, the cloud will descend, frolic on the ground and, filled with self confidence, turn into stone. That's how with a wave of his hand the sculptor creates his most beautiful sculpture.'2

Dreaming Star is a bronze sculpture of such a cloud; a form living within itself, creating absolute beauty through absolute abstraction. Analysis would be redundant, as appreciation depends more on an instinctive response to beauty.

Form in this sense is joy in the shape and the space around it; delight in the rounded surfaces flowing from one to another. Here is no imitation of nature but the creation of the essential flowering of nature, the source of growth, the rhythmic pulse of life. Sculpture such as this contains the elements of natural things, waves of the sea, shapes of stones and hills, human torsos, infinity, a dreaming star.

Ella Fry, Gallery Images, St George Books, Perth, 1984

Reference: 1 Carola Giedion-Welcker, Jean Arp Thames & Hudson, London, 1957. 2 Madeleine Chalette Lejwa, Catalogue Jean Arp Exhibition, Chalette International, New York, 1977.
Astre en rêve [Dreaming star]
Artist/Maker and role
Jean ARP: artist
97.3 x 84.0 x 48.0 cm
Credit line
Purchased 1978
The State Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession number

This is one of the sculptures in our collection.