Julio Gonzalez Sculptures at Fundacion Picasso

This exhibition is comprised of approximately fifty pieces drawn from a collection of the artists’ 400 works in the IVAM (Valencian Institute of Modern Art) in Spain that illuminates the artistic career of Julio Gonzalez (1876-1942), one of the most influential and inspirational Modern sculptors. González was a pioneer in fusing Cubism and industrial ironworking by creating welded open linear structures in iron, bronze and silver that evoke a primordial, totemic and playful feel. Between 1928-1931 he gave lessons in metalworking to Pablo Picasso and served as source of inspiration for artists such as Anthony Caro, Melvin Edwards, Mark di Suvero, Richard Stankiewicz, and David Smith, who called González “the father of all iron sculpture.”


Though González was one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, he is one of the least known. This exhibition brings to light how González revolutionized the use of welded iron as a medium that initiated a new language in sculpture, and it is the first showing of his work in the region. Works from the important collections of IVAM will be featured that include bronze and iron sculpture reliefs, handcrafted jewelry and figurative drawings.

The relationship between Julio González and Pablo Picasso has been one of the most fertile circumstances in 20th century art. For the former it was a fundamental stimulus which permitted him to progress quickly along the experimental path he had begun to tread with his first works and brought him into contact with the cubist constructions that Picasso had made out of sheet metal, cardboard or wood.

For his part, González contributed his experience in metal forging, which was to pave the way for a new sculptural language that he himself would define with the well-known expression “drawing in space”.

Born in Barcelona, as a young man he worked with his older brother, Joan, in his father’s metal smith workshop. Both brothers took evening classes in art at the Escuela de Bellas Artes. In the late 1890s Julio began to visit Els Quatre Gats, a Barcelona café, where he first met Pablo Picasso. He left Spain in 1900 and moved to Paris, never to return to his homeland.

In Paris he associated with the Spanish circle of artists of Montmartre, including Pablo Gargallo, Juan Gris and Max Jacob. In 1918, he developed an interest in the artistic possibilities of welding, after learning the technique whilst working in the Renault factory at Boulogne-Billancourt. This technique would subsequently become his principal contribution to sculpture. In 1920 he renewed his acquaintance with Picasso, for whom he later provided technical assistance in executing sculptures in iron, participating to Picasso’s researches on analytic cubism. He also forged the infrastructures of Constantin Brâncusi’s plasters. In the winter of 1927-28, he showed Picasso how to use oxy-fuel welding and cutting. From October 1928 till 1932, both men worked together — and in 1932, González was the only artist with whom Picasso shared his own personal art carnet. At fifty years old, himself influenced by Picasso, González deeply changed his style, exchanging bronze for iron, and volumes for lines.

In 1937 he contributed to the Spanish Pavilion at the World Fair in Paris (La Monserrat, standing near Guernica), and to Cubism and Abstract Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. That same year he moved to Arcueil, near Paris, where he died in 1942.

In the old quarter of the city, a short walk from Picasso’s birthplace, a museum has opened displaying some of his important works. The museum combines a restored 16th-century mudéjar palace, Palacio de Buenvista, with a series of modernist buildings that evoke the Pueblos Blancos in the hills above Málaga. The Spanish dictator Franco detested Picasso, his politics, and his “degenerate art,” and refused the artist’s offer to send paintings from France to Málaga in the 1950s. Ultimately, the collection here was made possible by two of Picasso’s heirs: his son Paulo’s wife, Christine Ruiz-Picasso, and Bernard, Christine and Paulo’s son. Many of the artworks are virtual family heirlooms, including paintings depicting one of the artist’s wives, such as Olga Kokhlova with Mantilla, or one of his lovers, Jacqueline Seated. Basically this is the art Picasso gave to his family or the art he wanted to keep for himself — in all, more than 200 paintings, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, and graphics. Some other notable works on display – many of them never on public view before.