Avant-garde aesthetics meets impeccable craftsmanship – On the oeuvre of Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889–1943) was a versatile modern artist. Her oeuvre encompasses not only works on paper, paintings, sculptures and reliefs but also textiles and furnishings. She also designed interiors, wall paintings and stained glass windows as well as her own studio- and dwelling house. Her work ranged from dance and performance to the creation of stage designs and puppets, and she was the publisher and editor of a magazine.
Within her oeuvre, works of simple clarity are found alongside complex yet downright playful compositions, often in strong, vibrant colours. An especially characteristic feature of countless of her pictorial compositions is the richly faceted interplay of elementary basic forms. On the strength of her early abstract geometric coloured pencil drawings, the “Compositions verticales-horizontales”, today she is seen as one of the pioneers of Concrete Art.
Sophie Taeuber-Arp stands out primarily for the openness and expansiveness of her artistic approach, which gave her a wealth of creative options. Always striving to combine art, crafts, design and everyday life, she applied her avant-garde repertoire of forms universally and flexibly to a vast array of techniques and materials. As a result, she not only overcame genre boundaries but created innovative works of superlative artistic quality across numerous disciplines.
Her assured handling of both traditional crafts and a modern vocabulary of forms can be attributed in no small part to her practical experience as a craftswoman and the wide-ranging training she undertook at renowned and reform-minded schools of arts and crafts.
With something akin to artistic economy, she repeatedly and liberally reused elements she had previously developed, transposing the original design into a variety of other mediums. Yet the results are neither uniform nor monotonous, because Taeuber-Arp’s work process is realised by means of variations. She was experimenting with her versatile expressive options: the same forms and colours recur in compositions of the utmost diversity. Sometimes one work varies only an inconspicuous detail of another. In this way her oeuvre evolves into a multilayered, subtly interconnected and interdependent Gesamtkunstwerk.
With her multidisciplinary working style and her artistic and technical prowess, Taeuber-Arp has left an impressive legacy. Her oeuvre, with its astonishing abundance of facets, innovation and experimentation occupies a unique place in the history of twentieth-century art.
The works of this avant-garde artist are represented in museums and private collections worldwide. A large part of her oeuvre is conserved by the Stiftung Arp e.V. in Remagen/Berlin, the Fondation Arp in Meudon and the Fondazione Marguerite Arp in Locarno.