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Julio González
b. 1876, Barcelona, Spain
d. 1942, Arcueil, France

A sculptor and painter, Julio González is best known for his small-scale, abstract iron sculptures. González grew up working in his father’s metal smith shop, where he learned the techniques of direct metal welding while attending evening art classes at the Escuela de Bellas Artes. His father, Concordio González, was a part-time sculptor, and his mother, Pilar Pellicer Fenés, came from a family of well-known artists. As a teenager, he joined a group of young artists known as Le Cénacle, which including Joaquin Torres-Garcia. The group aimed to remove the distinctions between applied and fine arts, a venture González continued throughout his life.

In the 1890s, González met Pablo Picasso at an exhibition; they would become lifelong friends, and Picasso’s sculptural work would inspire González in his future art-marking. In 1900, González moved to Paris; there he began to associate with Pablo Gargallo, Juan Gris, Manolo Hugué, Max Jacob, and Jaime Sabartés. During World War I, González worked at the Renault factory at Boulogne-Billancourt and learned the techniques of oxyacetylene welding, a skill he later repurposed for his sculpture.

González went on to exhibit his drawings and paintings with the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, the Salon des Indépendants, and the Salon d’Automne. After creating his first iron sculptures in 1927, González provided metal welding assistance to both Picasso and Constantin Brâncuși during the 1930s. In turn, González was deeply influenced by their work and by Cubism and Surrealism, using a variety of geometric forms, such as rods, planes, and spikes to convey metaphorical meaning. He is known as the father of iron sculpture. Work by González is in such collections as the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Tate Gallery, London, among many others.