All Julio Gonzalez wanted to do was “to draw in space.” Born September 21, 1876, Gonzalez grew up working in his father’s metalsmith shop, learning how to work and handle with metal shaping tools, curving, folding, cutting, and welding metal together to suit different purposes. Gonzalez found his purpose of life in art, especially after meeting Pablo Picasso and discovering the world of Cubism. Taking the intellectual concept of Cubism, Gonzalez added heart and humor, creating such works as Head (above) in 1935, with it’s tiny mouth full of sharp teeth and comic tuft of hair at the other end of the wide arc of metal suggesting the head itself.
Gonzalez first met Picasso in their native Spain in the late 1890s and met him again after moving to Paris in 1900. The two artists collaborated on several sculptures, with Gonzalez offering technical assistance and Picasso offering more philosophical advice. Gonzalez furthered the use of welding as an artistic technique and helped not only Picasso but also Constantin Brancusi in realizing their imaginative visions in cold hard steel. Woman Combing Her Hair (above) amazingly allows you to “see” the complete female figure in the metal, her hair suggested by the curved bars of metal trailing into space and the arch of her back shown in the smooth curve of the main metal torso. I’ve always loved Gonzalez’s sculpture because it follows the spirit of Cubism without disintegrating the image altogether, taking the cognitive leap in seeing that Cubism demands without excluding all but the initiated.
There’s also a Romanticism to Gonzalez’s work that the other Cubists seem to leave out in their sculptures and especially in the monochromatic paintings of Picasso and Georges Braque. The Kiss (above), from 1931, seems like an update of Auguste Rodin’s version. "It is high time," Gonzalez once wrote, "that this metal cease to be a murderer and the simple instrument of an overly mechanical science. Today, the door is opened wide to this material to be forged and hammered by the peaceful hands of artists." Gonzalez died in 1942, during the middle of World War II, sharing a studio and home with fellow artist Hans Hartung (with whom he also shared a birthday, see below). With his gift for making cold, hard metal bloom with the warmth of life, love, and peace, Gonzalez today seems more alchemist than sculptor.