Art Term

Biomorphic

Biomorphic forms or images are ones that while abstract nevertheless refer to, or evoke, living forms such as plants and the human body

Jean Arp (Hans Arp), ‘Sculpture to be Lost in the Forest’ 1932, cast c.1953–8
Jean Arp (Hans Arp)
Sculpture to be Lost in the Forest 1932, cast c.1953–8
Tate
© DACS, 2017

Biomorphic comes from combining the Greek words ‘bios’, meaning life, and ‘morphe’, meaning form.

The term seems to have come into use around the 1930s to describe the imagery in the more abstract types of surrealist painting and sculpture particularly in the work of Joan Miró and Jean Arp (see automatism). Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth also produced some superb biomorphs at that time, and later so did Louise Bourgeois.

Selected artworks in the collection