Julio Gonzalez (1876-1942)

Julio González was born in Barcelona on September 21, 1876. The son of a goldsmith and the grandson of a blacksmith, he was initiated into metalwork at a very young age. However, it was his brother Joan who took over the family business while Julio, after a determining visit to the Prado in 1897, decided to become a painter. In 1899, he left Spain for Paris. In the years before the First World War, he found himself among the group of artists that included Pablo Picasso, the poet Max Jacob, the Spanish sculptors Manolo and Pablo Gargallo, and the musician Edgar Varèse. The death of his brother in 1908 affected him deeply. In 1909, he had a daughter, Roberta, with Louise Breton, with whom he separated later in 1912. He began showing both canvases and jewelry at the Salon d'Automne. During the war, he spent time with Brancusi and Modigliani and continued both painting and creating brass masks. To meet his needs and those of his family, who had come to join him in the French capital, he opened a goldsmith's shop at 136 boulevard Raspail and began working as an apprentice solderer at Renault, where he discovered autogenic soldering.

He showed pieces in bronze and silver regularly between 1920 and 1929 in a variety of salons and galleries, and still continued to paint. His first works in iron began to appear after 1927. In 1929, González turned definitively toward sculpture, and became involved with the artists at the heart of the ephemeral movement Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square) taking inspiration from their researches without, however, exhibiting with them. His forms became more and more abstract and he increasingly focused on the relationship between the object and space.

He received his first sculptural commissions in 1930, and Picasso sought him out in his studio to ask him to help with the creation of a monument in iron to Apollinaire. This collaboration was a determining event for González and affirmed his style. At the beginning of the 1930s, already in his mid-50s, he created several masterpieces—Don Quixote, The Little Dancer, The Harlequin, etc. Around this time, he signed an exclusive contract with the Galerie de France.

His renown continued to grow, and he was featured in articles in the Cahiers d'art. The Museum of Living Art acquired one of his sculptures in 1934, and MoMA acquired one of his iron heads in 1937. He showed at the Kunsthaus in Zurich in 1934 and at the Jeu de Paume in 1936 and 1937. Also in 1937, he presented his famous Montserrat, which marked his return to figuration and declared his anti-Franco stance, in the Spanish Pavilion at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, where Picasso's Guernica was also shown. That same year, he married Marie-Thérèse Roux and moved to Arcueil. In 1939, his daughter, Roberta González, married the German painter Hans Hartung.

Forced to leave Paris with his family in 1940, he took refuge in the Lot and devoted himself to drawing. In 1941, he returned to Arcueil and worked in plaster to express his responses to the horrors of the war. He died on March 27, 1942.