sophie Taeuber-Arp (Swiss, 1889–1943)

Swiss painter, sculptor and designer. She studied textile techniques at the Ecole des Arts Appliqués in St Gall from 1908 to 1910 and then in Hamburg at the Kunstgewerbeschule in 1912. Her career began in the centre of Dada activity in Zurich between 1915 and 1920. Although she did not date her work until the last two years of her life, its chronology was reconstructed by Hugo Weber from the testimony of her husband, Hans Arp, and from internal evidence.

Taeuber-Arp’s work evolved in groups, each characterized by a distinctive use of formal elements. The first prevailing format was a horizontal–vertical sectioning of a square or vertical rectangular ground, as in Pillow Sham, a wool embroidery (c. 1916; Zurich, Mus. Bellerive). Its structure reveals the importance of her textile training as much as the influence of Cubism. Her austerely geometric art arose from her belief in the innate expressive power of colour, line and form, and was informed by unusual wit and freedom. She rejected her contemporaries’ progressive schematization of objective form. During the years of Dada in Zurich (1916–20), Taeuber-Arp not only painted but also made a series of polychrome wood heads, including the portrait of Jean Arp (1918–19; Paris, Pompidou), and designed the sets and marionettes (Zurich, Mus. Bellerive) for a performance of Carlo Gozzi’s König Hirsch in 1918 in conjunction with the exhibition of the Swiss workshop in Zurich. She was an accomplished dancer and performed at Cabaret Voltaire evenings. From 1916–29 she also taught at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich.

© Krystian Jarnuszkiewicz, all rights reserved