1889-1904. On 19 January 1889, Sophie Henriette Gertrud Taeuber is born in Davos-Platz, the fifth daughter of Emil Taeuber, a pharmacist of Prussian origin, and the Swiss-born Sophie Tauberkrusi. After the father’s death in 1889 the pharmacy is sold and the family move to Trogen, where Sophie would attend the Grundrealschule and the Mädchenrealschule.
1904-1914. In 1904 her mother enrols her at the Stauffacher Schule San Gallo, a private institution for draughtsmen and designers that had recently been established. In 1907 Sophie passes to the Zeichnungsschule at the Industrie – und Gewerbmuseum in San Gallo. After the mother’s death, the children rent out the Trogen house and Sophie moves to San Gallo with her sister Erika. In 1910 she continues her studies in Munich, under Wilhelm von Debshitz, who ran studios that provided experimentation and teaching in the free and applied arts. In 1914 she moves to Zurich, again with Erika, and earns her living painting portraits and still-lifes and producing hand-crafted work.
1915-1918. In 1915 she becomes part of the Schweizerische Werkbund. In Zurich she meets Jean Arp, her future husband, who is holding an exhibition of his first abstract works, including some made using textiles. Both agree in their rejection of conventional forms of art and traditional teaching methods. The first phase of their artistic collaboration begins, resulting in collages, textile works and wooden sculptures. In 1916 Sophie would attended a course of danse libre under Rudolf von Laban, there meeting Mary Wigman, Susanne Perrottet, Berthe Trumpy and many other dancers who, like her, would perform at the Dadaist soirées. In 1917 she would dance at the opening of the Dada gallery, wearing a costume designed by Jean Arp. Together with Jean Arp she writes the Dadaist Manifesto. She designs the sets and puppets for René Morax’s re-interpretation of Carlo Gozzi’s Il re cervo.
1919-1925. In 1919 she is struck down by pulmonary lymphadenitis and has to spend several months in the Arosa sanatorium. During this period she works on the choreography for Schwarze Kakadon, which would be staged in the Zurich Merchants’ Hall in April. She meets Francis Picabia and Gabrielle Buffer-Picabia. At Easter she goes to Italy with Jean Arp, visiting Florence, Rome and Siena. In 20 October the two get married at Pura. In spring 1925 Sophie rents a studio in Paris together with her husband. The two make another trip to Italy, visiting Florence, Rome, Naples, Pompeii and Vietri sul Mare, where they call on Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings. Sophie is appointed a member of the Jury for the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels to be held at the Paris Grand Palais. Her works win awards, and her tapestries are displayed at the International Exhibition of Modern Tapestries in Toledo (USA).
1926-1929. Through the Horn brothers she receives various commissions to design architectural interiors – including the glass and wall murals for the home of André Horn himself. In 1927 she is awarded the commission to design a multi-function café dansant within the Palais Aubette in Strasburg. Given its scale, she would ask Jean Arp and Theo van Doesburg to collaborate on the project. The income from this work then enabled Sophie and Jean Arp to purchase a plot of land at Clamart near Paris, where a house-studio to her designs would be built. Sophie Taeuber and Marcel-Eugène Cahen were then commissioned to redesign the interiors of the Galerie Goemans in Paris. In 1929 she spends her summer in Brittany with Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Tristan Tzara and Vincente Huidobro.
1930-1939. Through her friends Theo van Doesberg and Michel Seuphor, Sophie comes into contact with the artists of the Cercle et Carré group, participating at their exhibitions. When this group breaks up in 1931, she would then become a part of Abstraction-Crèation, beginning a series of dynamic compositions that introduced movement into the figurative world of ‘vertical-horizontal’ works. She also took part in many collective shows, including the “Artistes Suisses” shows held at Galeri Vavin and the Berne Kunsthalle (other artists in these exhibitions included Jean Arp, Kurt Sleigman and Hans Shiess). In 1936 her works were shown at the Galerie Pierre Loeb in Paris and the Zurich Kunsthaus as part of the Zeitprobleme in der Schweizer Malerie und Plastik show. The following year she was part of the Constructivist show at the Basel Kunsthalle. Together with César Domela, L.K. Morris and the American artist/collector A.E, Gallatin, she founds the art review “Plastique” in 1937, becoming editor and head of graphics. A new phase of team work with Jean Arp produces the wooden sculptures Matrimonial Sculpture and Wegweiser. In 1938, her works are shown in Paris (at the International Exhibition of Surrealism) and in London (at the Guggenheim Jeune Gallery’s Exposition of Contemporary Sculpture). Another phase of collaboration with her husband produces the series of dessins à quatre mains.
1940-1943. Fleeing before the German advance on Paris, Sophie and Jean Arp pass through Nerac and Annecy before reaching the Grasse home of Alberto and Susi Magnelli. Thanks to these latter, they have the chance to live at the “Chateau Folie”, which thenceforwards would become a recurrent theme in their work. In spite of the danger, Sophie goes to Paris to check on the state of things at Calmart. In 1942 the Chateau Folie is confiscated and Jean and Sophie move to a small house near Grasse. When all hope of obtaining a visa for the USA disappears, they move to Zurich in November. Jean is a guest of Max Bill, Sophie of her sister Erika. Sophie Taeuber would die on the night of 12 January 1943 due to carbon monoxide poisoning.