About the work





Knight Torso (Torse-chevalier), 1959 (detail)
88,6 x 28,8 x 20,6 cm
Knight Torso (Torse-chevalier) is donated by the Sara Lee Corporation in 2000.

Jean Arp's sculpture Knight Torso is distinguished by soft, organic shapes, resembling a flower bud about to bloom. A powerful, heroic shape, it rises from its pedestal growing through the air.

The surface is smooth and shaped like a membrane containing life. Round, asymmetrical shapes undulate along it. It is like an amoeba: A simple, almost liquid organism, yet refined and nuanced in its shape.

There is a familiar quality to the abstract amoeba form. The vertical shape carries a certain resemblance to art history’s many sculptures and pictures of proud and noble knights. The sculpture's title also comprises the words knight and torso. But rather than trying to create a clear correlation, Jean Arp tests the limits, clashing word and form.

The abstraction heightens the sensuous and immediate experience of the shape. The artist demands involvement from the onlooker who must bring his own interpretation to the work. The navel and the torso are subjects that Arp continued to revisit.

Knight Torso merges organic nature with geometric shapes. It is a work in an intuitive and spontaneous idiom growing up and out.

The torso is the trunk of the human body, dependant on the limbs. Thus the sculpture captures part of a fragmented body with only round, amorphous plastic shapes.

The bronze form appears to have grown from a bud and intent on continuing its development. Arp refers to the resulting curvy, slightly organic shapes, resembling the body and its processes, as 'biomorphous'.

The term biomorphous describes the abstract imagery characteristic of Arp's late work as well as the many Surrealists that he inspired. Among the artists influenced by his work are Joan Miró, André Masson and Alexander Calder.

Jean Arp's art in general
Today Arp’s fame rests primarily on his organic-abstract idiom, and throughout his life he was fascinated with nature’s habits and changes. His art is often characterised by a sense of change, of growth, of life moving from one stage to another. Thus the metamorphosis becomes a distinguishing trait in his art.

The abstract biomorphous shapes that characterised Arp's art for many years have several qualities. They can be seen as a creative force with no particular subject but also as indirectly figurative or literary subjects, such as a knight, a torso or a navel.

Arp made use of a wealth of possible associations and meanings, all with bases in the concrete form. He accentuated flat patterns, curvy contours and pure, bright colours. He wished to invest the artistic and creative process with a higher degree of free association, chance and automatism. Man’s relationship with nature is at the heart of his art, where he attains the optimum expressiveness in simple forms.

Arp is one of the pre-eminent pioneers of twentieth century modern art. A painter, sculptor, graphic artist and poet, he was co-founder of the Dada movement at the dawn of the century and an essential force in Surrealism. In addition he experimented with geometric abstractions inspired by Cubism.

Around 1915 he took up drawing and collage with assocations to plants, leaves and animal life, while first and foremost being abstract. With his wife, the artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp, he later abandoned painting in favour of sculpture and collage. Together they created collages, tapestries, embroideries and sculptures. His final years were distinguishes particularly by his reliefs executed in round, organic shapes.

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