GONZÁLEZ, PICASSO & FRIENDS at the Gemeente Museum, The Hague

It’s always difficult for anyone whose fame and success is dependent on the fame and success of others. Second fiddle is never a rewarding instrument to play.

In 1928 Julio González (1876-1942) was approached in Paris by his friend Pablo Picasso who needed help in executing some metal sculptures. González, a painter and sculptor in his own right, was happy to oblige and it was the start of a four year fruitful relationship and the foundation of González’ claim to fame.

This exhibition is mainly of the Spaniard’s work but also includes twenty works by Picasso, including the beautiful 1937 small gouache on wood, La Suppliante.

Although González aspired to be a painter his pictures were nothing special and he soon turned to making small sculptures, jewellery and objet d’art in metal, some of which are exquisite. There are three life-size flowers in iron and busts in various materials which are breath-taking.

González had learned about working with metal in his father’s workshop in Barcelona and after the First World War he took a job in the Renault car factory, where he learned sophisticated welding techniques.

He worked as an assistant to Brancusi but it is for his collaboration with Picasso that he is remembered. His value was that he was able to directly translate Picasso’s sketches into large, usually steel, three-dimensional sculptures without a maquette stage. Although his input and skill was significant and invaluable, he received little or no credit or acknowledgement.

As a result of his work with Picasso, González’ work blossomed and developed and he became an important and influential sculptor, though sadly always in the shadow of his more famous compatriot. An excellent and revealing exhibition.   Michael Hasted   4th January 2018


GONZÁLEZ, PICASSO AND FRIENDS continues until 2nd April