Taeuber-Arp was one of the signers of the Dada Manifesto and remained dedicated to the ideas of Dada throughout her career. She applied Dada to a wide range of forms, fully embracing the utopian impulses and promises of the movement to radically transform society by transforming human perception with radicalized aesthetics.
Taeuber-Arp desired to break down the boundaries between applied and fine arts. She translated principles from one genre into another, creating beautiful and groundbreaking hybrids. For example, her work with Theo Van Doesburg in the Café de L'Aubette brought principles of applied textile design into the creation of architectural space and decor.
In design work from Taeuber’s Dada period, such as the 1917 series Elementary Forms in a Vertical-Horizontal Composition, the artist tests the stasis of the abstract modular grid by working first in free-hand sketches and watercolor that will later be adapted to the loom.38 As if imagining the body’s work to push and pull a woven textile into being, Taeuber’s so-called elementary forms are not the pure elements of mathematic geometry, but rather seem alive, stretching or melting into their allotted containers, like amoebae on a specimen slide.
Other examples of works adapted from sketch to painting to textile show a similar effort to retain the kinesthetic impulse of motion. A motif from the late 1910s or early 1920s, titled Danseuse, is of a hefty figure in a static, feet-apart stance.39 Paradoxically, it is not the dancer who is made to dance, but the medium itself. In her initial sketch for this motif, which appears in both paintings and rugs later on, we get a glimpse of Taeuber’s keen attention to proportion and to its subsequent obliteration.
Taeuber’s paintings also reference an interest in dance and movement more obliquely, such as in Free Vertical-Horizontal Rhythms, 1919, or Composition in Dense, Polychrome, Quadrangular Spots, 1921. Here again we are faced not with discrete bodies seen in action, but with images of abstract grids that have been brought to life.
She also explored the relationship between fine art and performance - working with dance, movement and masks. She sought to bring the ideas of Dada and Abstraction to dance and puppetry, contrasting the restriction and freedom of movement and pose, while the masks and costumes highlighted the split between dancer and the dances.
"The intrinsic decorative urge should not be eradicated. It is one of humankind's deep-rooted, primordial urges."
Throughout the years of Dada Zurich, Sophie Taeuber, as a Swiss native an exceptional figure in the international Dada circle, walked the line between arts and crafts and artistic avant-garde. For Taeuber, applied art was what set the pace for her abstract formal inventions in free art. In the broad range of Dadaist events and publications, however, she appeared, somewhat reductively tagged, as an “artisan,” as well as an important dancer on the Dada stage. Her day job as a teacher of textile Design at the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts, which she held from 1916 to 1929, meant both a vocation and a burden to her.
Her teaching duties and commissioned textile work took up much of her time and energy, and in a letter to Hans Arp she asked herself, “if there isn’t anything better to do to bide one’s time until death than toiling to make some money … and also doing beadwork, which is beautiful and all, but unreasonably laborious, because it is just fancy and doesn’t invent anything new, which is what makes the great difference between us.”
"It is not possible for us to take ourselves back to the exact circumstances of those in a past era, attempting to create art in the style of the past is always inauthentic."
Sophie Taeuber-Arp was more likely to remain a mystery, with no legendary ego or texts about her art. As an artist leading in the development of modern art in Europe, she was socially conscious with new visions of the roles of art and women and challenged established order with fellow artists, like her husband, Jean (Hans) Arp.
Her wide-ranging forms of expression included painting, dance, tapestry, weaving, drawing, embroidery, furniture and interior design, photography, architecture, set design and puppet-making, all with equal intensity and playfulness. Curiosity is her hallmark.
Sophie was married to artist Jean (Hans) Arp in 1922. Their independent artistic careers and practices were bound by similar aesthetic sensibilities. The two met during one of Arp’s exhibitions in Zurich in 1915 and their work instantly became mutually influenced by one another.
Jean recalls being impressed by Sophie’s abstract geometric work, and she was his introduction to many non-objective Modernist artists. The two artists began their collaboration with a series of collages and embroidered pieces titled “Duo-Collages” (1916-18)—abstract works with compositions based on squares and geometry, employing color to create visual rhythms.
In 1930, Taeuber-Arp and Arp built their house together near Paris, based on Taeuber-Arp’s designs and the structure today functions as the center of the Foundation Jean Arp.
Often the only woman at Concrete Art group exhibitions, Her artistic colleagues included Piet Modrian, Kasimir Malewitsch, Jean Miro, and Theo van Doesburg. Sophie's work is not unlike the color studies and textiles of Sonia Delaunay, with whom she was good friends.
“Everything to do with Taeuber-Arp has the luminosity of sunlight, and is the miracle which has replaced tradition. She is full of invention, whim and extravagance." -Hugo Ball.
Aubette is a historical building on Place Kléber in Strasbourg, France. It was built by Jacques-François Blondel in 1765–1772. Between 1926 and 1928 it was redecorated by Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Jean Arp and De Stijl artist Theo van Doesburg. The work of the three artists had been called "the Sistine Chapel of abstract art".
Athough Van Doesburg, Arp, and Täuber ostensibly worked as a team, their actual design process was surprisingly disjointed; rooms were designed by different artists with little in the way of organized collaboration, allowing their personal styles to shape the individual spaces of the building.
In 1937, she started the magazine Plastique, which was published until 1939. Taeuber-Arp died on January 13, 1943 from a gas leak in the home in which she and Jean were staying. Deeply affected by his wife's death, Jean took a break from making sculpture. In 1995, the Swiss government put Taeuber-Arp's portrait on its 50-franc note.