Jean Arp was born in Alsace and studied at the Strasbourg School of Arts and Crafts, at Weimar (1905-7) and the Academie Julian, Paris (1908).
Jean Arp moved to Switzerland in 1909, and in 1911 was a founder of the Moderner Bund group there. The following year, he met Vasily Kandinsky in Munich. He exhibited semi-figurative drawings at the second Blaue Reiter exhibition in 1912, and in 1913 he exhibited with the Expressionists at the first Autumn Salon in Berlin.
After returning to Paris in 1914, he became acquainted with Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Amadeo Modigliani, and Pablo Picasso. In 1915, he moved to Zurich, where he executed collages and tapestries, often in collaboration with his future wife Sophie Taeuber (who became known as Sophie Taeuber-Arp after they married in 1922).
In 1916, Hugo Ball opened the Cabaret Voltaire, which was to become the center of Dada activities in Zurich. Arp continued his involvement with Dada after moving to Cologne in 1919.
Arp’s work appeared in the first exhibition of the Surrealist group at the Galerie Pierre, Paris, in 1925. In 1926, he settled in Meudon, France.
In 1931, Arp was associated with the Paris-based group "Abstraction-Création" and the periodical "Transition". Throughout the 1930s and until the end of his life, he continued to write and publish poetry and essays. In 1954, Arp received the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale. A retrospective of his work was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1958, followed by another at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, in 1962. Arp died June 7, 1966, in Basel.