LOT 037

1887 - 1966

Fruit préadamite
bronze sculpture with golden brown patina, 1938
on verso editioned 5/5, monogrammed and stamped Susse Fondeur Paris
11 1/8 x 10 7/8 x 8 in, 28.3 x 27.6 x 20.3 cm

Estimate: $90,000 - $120,000 CAD

Sold for: $103,250

Preview at:

Marguerite Arp
Acquired from the above by Édouard Loeb, 53 Rue de Rennes, Paris, December 1973
Waddington Galleries, Montreal
A Prominent Montreal Estate

Carola Giedion-Welcker, Jean Arp, 1957, catalogue raisonné #51
Jean Arp, Dadaland, 1948, quoted in Hans Richter, Dada, Art and Anti-Art, 1964, page 25
William S. Rubin, Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage, Museum of Modern Art, 1968, page 40
Eduard Trier, Jean Arp: Sculpture 1957 - 1966, Catalogue of His Late Sculpture, 1968
Harold Rosenberg, “Pro-Art Dada: Jean Arp,” The De-definition of Art, 1972, page 78
Ruth Apter-Gabriel, editor, The Arthur and Madeleine Chalette Lejwa Collection in the Israel Museum, 2005, another cast from the edition referenced, accession #B99.1990

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Dada, Surrealism and Beyond, February - June 2007, another cast from the edition, catalogue #B99.1990

Jean Arp is associated with the very beginning of the Dada movement at Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, in 1916. However, his work never seems to have had the abrasive quality of the early anti-art declarations of Tristan Tzara, or the flat rejection by Francis Picabia of painting as such, or the ironic detachment of Marcel Duchamp. His work always had a playful quality, a humour and a gentleness that seem foreign to these masters. Arp was to Dadaism what Joan Miró was to Surrealism: an eminent participant for sure, but too personal to really fit into a movement. And with time, neither Miró nor Arp changed their basic attitude. In the case of Arp, you could say that he remained what he had always been, a free mind, a whimsical inventor of new forms and a creator of a nature parallel to the one we know.

But by insisting too much on the playfulness, not to mention the childish fantasy of Arp, there is a danger in losing the real meaning of his contribution to modern art. Arp was first attracted to Cubism, but he was also one of the first to feel the need for something else. In a time when the human form and more generally the living form was negated or destroyed during World War I in the name of reason, truth or order (precisely the values claimed by the Cubists), he felt the need to express exactly the opposite. Revolted by the butchery of the war, he wrote in 1948 that

we in Zurich devoted ourselves to the arts. While the guns rumbled in the distance, we sang, painted, made collages and wrote poems with all our might. We were seeking an art based on fundamentals, to cure the madness of the age, and a new order of things that would restore a balance between heaven and hell. We had a dim premonition that power-mad gangsters would one day use art itself as a way of deadening men’s minds.

Organic forms were to replace nicely constructed geometric space. Forms of life were to become the principal source of inspiration, instead of the clever scaffolding of elements seen from different angles. Freedom of inspiration - giving the same importance to a moustache, a cloud or a breast - was to be preferred to the traditions maintained by the Cubists, who were still painting still lifes, portraits and landscapes. It is this rejection of the destroying power of reason, tragically illustrated by the war, that made Arp a Dadaist to start with, and the introducer of biomorphism to modern art. As William S. Rubin, then director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, has stated, Arp’s adoption of a “new curvilinear, organic morphology” influenced the whole Surrealist movement. He commented, “From that point on, biomorphism would be the nearest thing to a common form-language for the painter-poets of the Surrealist generations.”

This sculpture is of the post-Dada period of Arp’s work. It belongs to what he called his “concretions,” as if the forbidden fruit of Fruit préadamite, 1938, was the result of a long mental process similar to sedimentation or stalagmite formation. It has nothing, however, of the nature of a found natural object, like the Surrealists used to collect, and it is a sculpture on its own terms. Fruit préadamite belongs to the type of sculpture in which “a torso [...could] be a leg, a vegetable [could turn] into animal, a star that might be a starfish, buds that are breasts.” It is not surprising that it could be of another race than Adam, and could even belong to what the seventeenth-century French writer Isaac La Peyrère called the Preadamite races. He argued that the existence of these races explained Cain’s life after Abel’s murder, which, in the Genesis account, involved the taking of a wife and the building of a city. When looking at Arp’s Fruit préadamite, there is no need, however, to refer to this type of erudition. One has a delightful multi-meaning object, the parts of which could be read differently, depending on the connections one makes mentally when handling it.

We thank the late François-Marc Gagnon of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute of Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University, for contributing the above essay in 2009.

This work is accompanied by a photo-certificate inscribed: “Je, soussigné Edouard Loeb, 53 Rue de Rennes, Paris, Certifie que le bronze photographié ci-contre, vendu à Waddington, de Montréal, intitulé 'fruit préadamite' par Arp, porte le no 5/5 d'une édition de 5 bronzes. Paris le 17 mai 1974. Reproduit sous le no 2/5 du livre Jean Arp, sculptures 1957/66, éditions Arthur Niggli S.A. Teufen (Suisse).”

This work is registered in the Fondation Arp catalogue raisonné on the artist's work as #CGW 61.

Estimate: $90,000 - $120,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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