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Composition à rectangles et cercles
(Composition with rectangles and circles)

1931
Ink, gouache, watercolor, pencil and opaque white
corrections on paper
20.5 x 27.4 cm / 8 1/8 x 10 3/4 in

‘The wish to produce beautiful things—when that wish is true and profound—falls together with [one’s] striving for perfection.’
—Sophie Taeuber-Arp

Coquilles et fleurs (Shells and Flowers)

1938
Relief, painted wood
1 from a series of 3 variants
Diameter: 59 cm / 23 1/4 in; depth: 8.1 cm / 3 1/4 in

‘Coquilles et fleurs’ (Shells and Flowers)

Produced in 1938, Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s ‘Coquilles et fleurs’ (Shells and Flowers) was created during an especially fruitful decade, which found her settled in the outskirts of Paris and moving within the circle of the avant-garde. In the period between her official break with Abstraction-Création, in 1934, and her founding of the Plastique/Plastic review, in 1937, Taeuber-Arp’s art took a new direction in the form of painted wood reliefs. These new works synthesized the cerebral geometry of her previous ‘Ping’ paintings with Surrealist biomorphism, using the circle, square and rectangle as focal points of a composition, while adhering to triads and tetrads of colors on an otherwise black or white monochromatic ground. This shift translated into an organic vocabulary of voids and ‘shapes counterpointing shapes’, which, as the artist ultimately paired down to a monochromatic white or muted polychrome palette [2], gave way to studies in light and shadow, merging the relief into the architectural space of its surrounding wall.

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Sophie Taeuber-Arp

Sophie Taeuber-Arp is one of the most important artists of the twentieth-century avant-garde and is considered a pioneer of Constructivist art. Reconciling extremes with confidence—Dada and Geometric Abstraction, fine art and utilitarian objects—Taeuber-Arp’s works boldly engaged with the intellectual context of international modernism. Through her multi-faceted approach to media, she challenged traditional hierarchies between fine and applied art, and asserted art’s urgent relevance to daily life.

Modern Master

Learn about the life and work of Sophie Taeuber-Arp in this film narrated by Jennifer Higgie, editor-at-large of frieze magazine and host of Bow Down, a podcast about significant women from art history who deserve our attention.

Sophie Taeuber-Arp

Explore our online exhibition devoted to Sophie Taeuber-Arp including 30 works, dating from 1916 to 1942, presented alongside photography and material from the Arp Foundation (Stiftung Arp e.V.) archives. Her radical multidisciplinary approach was a constant thread throughout the distinct periods of her life and work, from her marionettes and iconic ‘Tête Dada’ (1920), to her architectural interiors and reliefs.

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