Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sophie Taeuber-Arp

Untitled (Composition with Squares, Circle, Rectangles, Triangles)
wool needlepoint
24 x 24 5/8 in.
location unknown

Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943), painter, sculptor, and dancer, born in Davos, Switzerland, as the fifth child of Prussian pharmacist, was a leading figure in Zurich and Paris Dada. She is considered one of the most important artists of geometric abstraction of the 20th century. She pushed the limits of abstraction in paintings, sculpture, and textiles. The paintings were influenced by her training in textile design, as well as Cubism. She joined several artists’ organizations, edited and wrote for radical publications, and exhibited her work throughout Europe. She also danced and designed sets for Dada performances. Her utopian concern with the marriage of the fine and the applied arts and her experiments in dance, choreography, performance, and puppet theater should not be minimized. It was her commitment to the total work of art that guaranteed her an important place in the history of 20th-century modernism.

Her father died of tuberculosis when she was two years old, after which the family moved to Trogen, where her mother opened a pension. She left home at eighteen to study textile design in Germany. Returning to Zurich in 1915, she began to produce non-representational paintings, which she referred to as “concrete” paintings. In 1915, at an exhibition at a gallery, she met the Dada artist Jean Arp, with whom she was to collaborate on numerous joint projects until her death in 1943. They married in 1922 and she changed her last name to Taeuber-Arp.

She was active in Zurich’s Dada group between 1916 and 1919; she danced in avant-garde performances at the Cabaret Voltaire, an important center of Dada activity. After World War I, many of her friends and colleagues moved to Paris. From the late 1920s, she lived mainly in Paris and continued experimenting with design. In the 1930s, she was a member of the group Cercle et Carre, a standard-bearer of nonfigurative art, and its successor, the Abstraction-Creation group; and in the late 1930s she founded a Constructivist review, Plastique (Plastic) in Paris. Her circle of friends included the artists Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miro, and Marcel Duchamp. In 1940, she and her husband Arp fled Paris ahead of the Nazi occupation and moved to Grasse in Southern France, where they created an art colony. In late 1942, they returned to Zurich, and the next year, she died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning due to a malfunctioning stove.