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

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  • Jean Arp (Hans Arp), 'Sculpture to be Lost in the Forest' 1932, cast circa 1953-8
    Jean Arp (Hans Arp)
    Sculpture to be Lost in the Forest 1932, cast circa 1953-8
    object: 90 x 222 x 154 mm
    object: 60 x 120 x 100 mm
    object: 65 x 55 x 93 mm
    Accepted by H.M. Government in lieu of tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 1986© DACS, 2002
  • Joan Miró, 'A Star Caresses the Breast of a Negress (Painting Poem)' 1938
    Joan Miró
    A Star Caresses the Breast of a Negress (Painting Poem) 1938
    © Succession Miro/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002
  • Dame Barbara Hepworth, 'Curved Form (Trevalgan)' 1956
    Dame Barbara Hepworth
    Curved Form (Trevalgan) 1956
    object: 902 x 597 x 673 mm
    Purchased 1960© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

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.