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Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Born (1889-01-19)19 January 1889
Davos, Switzerland
Died 13 January 1943(1943-01-13) (aged 53)
Nationality Swiss
Education School of Applied Arts, St. Gallen
Known for Sculpture, Painting
Movement Constructivism, Dada

Sophie Taeuber-Arp (; 19 January 1889 - 13 January 1943) was a Swiss artist, painter, sculptor, and dancer. She is considered one of the most important artists of geometric abstraction of the 20th century.

Early life

Born in Davos, Switzerland, Sophie Henriette Gertrude Taeuber (sometime spelled Täuber) was the fifth child of Prussian pharmacist Emil Taeuber and Sophie Taeuber-Krüsi. 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 began her art studies in her homeland, at the School of Applied Arts in St. Gallen (1906–1910). She then moved on to the workshop of Wilhelm von Debschits in Munich, where she studied in 1911 and again in 1913; in between, she studied for a year at the School of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg. In 1916, she attended the Laban School of Dance in Zurich, and in the summer she joined the artist colony of Monte Verita in Ascona; in 1917, she danced with Mary Wigman and others at the Sun Festival organized by Laban in Ascona.


In 1915, at an exhibition at the Tanner Gallery, she met the Dada artist Jean Arp,[1] 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.

Taeuber-Arp taught weaving and other textile arts at the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts from 1916 to 1929. Her textile and graphic works from around 1916 through the 1920s are among among the earliest Constructivist works, along with those of Piet Mondrian and Kasimir Malevich. These sophisticated geometric abstractions reflect a subtle understanding of the interplay between color and form.

During this period, she was involved in the Zürich Dada movement, which centered on the Cabaret Voltaire. She took part in Dada-inspired performances as a dancer, choreographer, and puppeteer; and she designed puppets, costumes, and sets for performances at the Cabaret Voltaire as well as for other Swiss and French theaters. At the opening of the Galerie Dada in 1917, she danced to poetry by Hugo Ball wearing a shamanic mask by Marcel Janco. A year later, she was a co-signer of the Zurich Dada Manifesto.

She also made a number of sculptural works, such as a set of abstract "Dada Heads" of turned polychromed wood. With their witty resemblance to the ubiquitous small stands used by hatmakers, they typified her elegant synthesis of the fine and applied arts.


In 1926 Taeuber-Arp and Jean Arp moved to Strasbourg, where both took up French citizenship; after which they divided their time between Strasbourg and Paris. There Taeuber-Arp received numerous commissions for interior design projects; for example, she was commissioned to create a radically Constructivist interior for the Café de l'Aubette – a project on which Jean Arp and de Stijl artist Theo van Doesburg eventually joined her as collaborators. In 1927 she co-authored a book entitled Design and Textile Arts with Blanche Gauchet.

From the late 1920s, she lived mainly in Paris and continued experimenting with design. In 1928, Taeuber-Arp and Arp moved to Meudon-Val Fleury, outside of Paris, where she designed their new house and some of its furnishings.[2]

In the 1930s, she was a member of the group Cercle et Carré, a standard-bearer of nonfigurative art, and its successor, the Abstraction-Création group; and in the late 1930s she founded a Constructivist review, Plastique (Plastic) in Paris. Her circle of friends included the artists Sonia Delaunay, Robert Delaunay, Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miró, and Marcel Duchamp.

In 1940, Taeuber-Arp and Arp fled Paris ahead of the Nazi occupation and moved to Grasse in Southern France, where they created an art colony with Sonia Delaunay and other artists. In 1943, during a visit to Switzerland, Taeuber-Arp died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning due to a malfunctioning stove.


Taeuber-Arp on the 50 Swiss Francs note

Taeuber-Arp is the only woman on the current series of Swiss banknotes in Switzerland; her portrait has been on the 50-franc note since 1995. A museum honoring Taeuber-Arp and Jean Arp opened in 2007 in a section of the Rolandseck, Germany, train station redesigned by Richard Meier.


Taeuber-Arp took part in numerous exhibitions during her relatively short life. For example, she was included in the first Carré exhibition at the Galeries 23 (Paris) in 1930, along with other notable early 20th-century modernists. Many museums around the world have her work in their collections, but in the public consciousness her reputation lagged for many years behind that of her more famous husband. Sophie Taeuber-Arp began to gain substantial recognition only after the Second World War, and her work is now generally accepted as in the first rank of classical modernism. An important milestone was the exhibition of her work at documenta 1 in 1955. Then, in 1981 the Museum of Modern Art (New York) mounted a retrospective of her work that subsequently traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), and the Musée d'Art Contemporain (Montreal).


  1. ^ Hilton Kramer (October 4, 1981), MOMA Presents a neglected Abstractionist New York Times.
  2. ^ Saskia de Rothschild (February 14, 2013), Glimpses of Jean Arp’s World New York Times.

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