Developing the expressive use of iron as a medium for modern sculpture and giving it an unprecedented expressiveness and range, the Spanish sculptor and painter, Julio González i Pellicer, is revered as the father of all iron sculptures in the early 20th century.
Born in Barcelona, Spain, on September 21, 1876, González came from a family of metalsmith workers. At the age of 15, he began an apprenticeship as a goldsmith together with his brother. Later, he took some evening courses at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona. In 1899, the family moved to Paris, where he first met Pablo Picasso and befriended him. Through Picasso, González became acquainted with the leaders of Parisian avant-garde and decided to become a painter himself.
Supporting himself by making decorative metalwork and jewelry, González started his early career in painting. His encounter with the Spanish sculptor, Pablo Gargallo, resulted in one of the influential contacts, which helped him in his later career. After the death of his in 1908, González fell into deep emotional crisis and gradually abandoned painting, earning a living as an artist blacksmith and focused on metal sculptures.
In 1918, González trained as a welder and learned autogenous soldering, which became the basis of his future oeuvre. Based on traditional ideas, González produced his first sculptures made from wrought iron in 1927. In the late 1920s, when Picasso sought his technical advice and assistance in the construction of welded sculptures, González began a cooperation with Picasso.
There is evidence of Picasso’s cubist influence in González own work, which typically reduced the human figures to geometric shapes and lines. In his mature work, González frequently used rods and sheets of metal to construct abstract female figures that often contains hollow volumes, such as “Seated Woman” (1935). He adopted a more naturalistic style for his best-known sculpture, “Montserrat I” (1936-37), a work inspired by the horrors and injustices of the Spanish Civil War.
When acetylene and oxygen became scarce due to the war, Julio González was unable to continue his sculptural work and was left with drawing and modeling using plasticine and gypsum. In 1937, he contributed to the Spanish Pavilion of the World's fair in Paris and “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 on March 27, 1942.