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Surrealism and the Body

See how the Surrealists explored the human form and hidden desires.


Bell and Navels

Jean (Hans) Arp
(French, born Germany (Alsace). 1886–1966)

1931. Painted wood, 10" (25.4 cm) high; 1 5/8" (4.2 cm) high x 19 3/8" (49.3 cm) diameter, including wood base

The title of this sculpture identifies its two spherical shapes as navels and the larger, upturned form as a bell. The navel was one of Arp’s signature motifs. In various works, including sculptures and prints, the navel resembled an egg, a seed, a womb, and, as paired here, breasts. The form resonated with him as a symbol of birth, growth, and fertility, he explained, “It’s the first thing that exists, the beginning.”

Arp connected the act of artistic creation with the cycles of nature and birth. The year he made this sculpture, Arp declared, “Art is a fruit that grows in man like a fruit on a plant or a child in its mother’s womb.”

A form, sign, or emblem that represents something else, often something immaterial, such as an idea or emotion.

The form or condition in which an object exists or appears.

A term describing a wide variety of techniques used to produce multiple copies of an original design. Also, the resulting text or image made by applying inked characters, plates, blocks, or stamps to a support such as paper or fabric.

A distinctive and often recurring feature in a composition.

The shape or structure of an object.