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Julio González

Spanish Draftsman

Julio González Photo
Movements and Styles: Cubism, Surrealism, Modern Sculptors

Born: September 21, 1876 - Barcelona, Spain

Died: March 27, 1942 - Arcueil, Paris, France

"This new art: To draw in space."

Julio Gonzalez Signature

Summary of Julio González

Despite Julio González's late start and short creative period of work, marked by poverty and war, he realized key works that capture his radical approach to sculpture. The strong ties to the local craft traditions in Barcelona informed his image of form and his choice of material with the formidable training and his acquired welding skills during WWI allowed him to combine fully contradictory concepts of the modern - from Cubism, Surrealism, Constructivism, to various forms of abstraction - in his sculptures. And especially influential was González's intensive collaboration with Pablo Picasso. Although González never gained broad popularity, he is known as the father of iron sculpture and is consistently included among the famous modern sculptors of the 20th century, such as Brancusi, Giacometti, Laurens, and Picasso.

Key Ideas

González chose iron as his metal of choice, because of his objection to its modern uses for munitions and for society's mechanized, scientific environment. He aimed to transform this metal into evocative forms. The method of collage informs his process of welding together disparate pieces of metal, even found scraps of metal and bars, creating arabesque-like delineations in space to capture the human experience of beauty and defiance.
González, inspired by Rodin, left visible the process of making, such as chasing the subject out of the metal, the marks of beating the metal into shape, or showing the skeletal elements used in welding a piece together. The material's unfinished, rough surface or scrap iron pieces expressed the object's corporeality and lent it an emotive quality, which was intended to shape the viewer's perception of the work. For the first time, González used welded metal as a new medium and technique for sculpture.
Influenced by Picasso's revolutionizing attitude toward the dialogue between painting and sculpture, González began to depict forms in space in his own sculptural work. He therefore understood space as a new material to manipulate and to construct with. This led eventually to González's own invention of drawing in space, which meant using the given lines and surfaces in the material to create open constructions in and with space suggestive of the female figure or human body.
Drawing provided González with the opportunity to try out his ideas and even occupy himself, when sculpting materials were scarce. They reveal his sense of color and the importance of light and shadow in the composition of spatial form.
González's Catalan roots led to his deep connection with the Republican cause in Catalonia and Spain's defiance against the fascist threat. His pessimism toward the Spanish Civil War colored his political sympathies, which can be seen in his drawings and sculptures.
Julio González Photo

González was born Julio González Pellicer in Barcelona to a family descended from a long line of metal smiths. As a child, he began learning decorative metal working in his father's workshop. His father, Concordio González, was a part-time sculptor, and his mother, Pilar Pellicer Fenés, came from a long line of well-known artists, her father having been an important 19th century Catalan illustrator and designer. As the youngest of four children, González was particularly close to his mother and to his older brother, Joan. As his family loved music, he learned to play the mandolin at an early age to accompany his singing. He attended a Catholic school that followed the educational model of medieval craft guilds, where technical training was highly valued.

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