Jean Arp (Hans Arp)

Moustaches

c.1925

Medium
Oil paint on board
Dimensions
Object: 307 x 227 mm, 5 mm
frame: 345 x 265 x 40 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Mr and Mrs Robert Lewin through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1988
Reference
T05504

Display caption

Arp developed a distinctive repertoire of abstracted shapes for his sculptural reliefs. The same motifs, repeated from work to work, were intended as a kind of ‘object language’. One of these symbols was the moustache, which Arp associated with pomposity. A common affectation of figures of authority, the moustache embodied the spirit of bourgeois stupidity that had precipitated the First World War. It was only around the time of making this work that the German-born Arp secured his French nationality, having been stateless since refusing to fight in the war.

Gallery label, July 2008

Technique and condition

A relief cut out of a thin piece of woodpulp board. It was found to be discoloured and splits have occurred in the top layer.

White and blue oil paint is thinly applied in vertical brushstrokes. The paint is uneven in consistency with lumps and other impurities apparent in the surface.

On acquisition the relief was removed from a black plywood support. It was found to be glued for reinforcement to a piece of 3mm plywood cut the the shape of the design. The cut plywood edges had been chamfered and the reverse painted with white acrylic paint. A photograph supplied by the previous owner shows the back of the relief before reinforcement with Arp's signature in pencil. Old discoloured retouchings were removed and losses and splits filled and retouched. The existing frame was replaced with a new one similar to the original and constructed from a photograph and information provided by the Arp Foundation. The original frame, made of narrow rounded moulding, was known to have been painted by the artist to correspond to the colour of the relief. In accordance with the artist's intentions, a perspex backboard has been fitted to allow the colour of the wall to be visible behind the relief.

Jo Crook
1997