Julio González - 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips

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  • In Short

    ''Brancusi through direct carving in wood or stone, González through direct forging in metal - that the new vision of sculpture as we know it today was born” – Margit Rowell, art historian and curator

  • Drawing in Space

    Challenging traditional modes of sculpture using clay or stone, L’arlequin epitomizes Julio González’s expressive approach to the unmalleable medium of metal. In the present work, the artist depicts a semi-abstracted representation of a harlequin, the comedic servant from the Italian commedia dell’arte. A trope so ubiquitous in art history, the harlequin was frequently portrayed by masters such as Jean-Antoine Watteau, Paul Cezanne, Joan Miró, and of course—Pablo Picasso. Though the sculpture contains no closed volumes, the identity of the Harlequin is immediately apparent through the checkered suit that forms the subject’s bust and the triangle above the face, which recalls its signature hat. Curved rods are used in place of arms; a large, conical shape evokes a shadow. First conceived in iron, the example of which is currently housed in the Kunsthaus Zürich, the current work was cast in bronze, most other editions of which are held in the permanent collections of preeminent institutions. 
    “[González is] one of the most remarkable talents in the history of modern art” – Hilton Kramer, The New York Times     


    Julio González, Harlequin, 1930 (iron example). Collection Kunsthaus, Zurich, Artwork © 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
    Catalonian Beginnings     

    Born from a lineage of highly skilled metalsmiths, González apprenticed in his family’s workshop in Barcelona, where he was first exposed to burnishing and hammering sheet iron, before moving to Paris in 1900. Later he began considering the artistic possibilities of welding, which he learned while working at the Renault motor car factory at Boulogne-Billancourt during World War I. After the war ended, he returned to painting and sculpture before reaching the true turning point in his career, which was his tenure as a studio assistant for Constantin Brancusi. While producing iron armatures for Brancusi’s bronze casts—heads rendered in virtual abstraction—González’s practice changed for the rest of his career, as visible in the reduced shapes of L'arlequin. 

    These interests in welding and abstraction manifested themselves in his first iron sculptures which he executed in 1927 before being approached by old friend Picasso to assist his own metal works. Regarding the subsequent process of Picasso’s two-dimensional drawings erupting into three-dimensional sculptures, art historian Josephine Withers elucidated that “for González the power of this eruption was, literally, earth-shaking—the beginning of what he called ‘this new art: to draw in space.’ But for González, these revelations became the further invention of a new kind of drawing: the sculptural inscription of space.”[i] Reflective of Picasso’s influence on his oeuvre following their collaboration, L'arlequin’s geometric abstraction and divergent planes evoke Cubism’s employment of multiple perspectives.

    Julio González, circa 1936. Photo credit: Georges Meguerditchian © CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY

    A New Decade of Success

    “To project and design in space with the help of new methods, to utilize this space, and to construct with it, as though one were dealing with a newly acquired material—that is all I attempt” – Julio González

    [left] Pablo Picasso, Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center), 1962-1964. Private Collection, Artwork © 2020 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    [right] Pablo Picasso, Harlequin, 1915. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork © 2020 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Executed soon after these two formative experiences with leading modernist sculptors, L'arlequin marks a significant moment in González’s career. After coalescing both influences into a unique visual language produced with his own metalworking skills, the artist was met with more success: he had a solo sculpture exhibition in 1930 at the Galerie de France in Paris, before being included at the Salon des Surindépendants the next year for the first time. Later that decade, he showed at the World Fair in Paris and in the exhibition “Cubism and Abstract Art” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. A superb example of his practice during a watershed point in the artist’s oeuvre, L’arlequin embodies González’s pioneering approach and its effects on the development of modernist sculpture.
  • Modernism's Harlequins

  • Picasso and González

    Both Spaniards, Picasso and González first met in 1897 at Els Quartre Gats, the historic café which was the nexus of the modernist art and literature community in Barcelona. At the time of their meeting, González, then 15 years old, was an apprentice at his family’s metalsmith worship, while Picasso—five years younger—already garnered a burgeoning art reputation.

    The two relocated to Paris at the beginning of the 20th century and became reacquainted in 1920 after falling out a decade earlier. In 1928, Picasso was offered a significant commission for a proposal for a monument to poet and friend Guillaume Apollinaire. Despite having almost entirely abandoned sculpture over the last 15 years, he began developing three-dimensional open-form ideas and executing preliminary drawings for the monument. Picasso soon realized he would need both technical assistance as well as access to welding equipment to execute the project, which led him to enlist help from his old friend, González, who had become a highly-skilled metalsmith while working in the Renault factory.


    Pablo Picasso, Portrait de Julio González, 1901. Carmen Martinez Collection, Paris, Artwork © 2020 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    They worked together until 1931 in González’s small studio on the Rue de Médéah, producing at least six sculptures together. While at first González was primarily responsible for mechanically transposing Picasso’s ideas into iron, the two began to have long conversations and soon became intellectual partners. The metal assemblages the two created during the period—including Picasso’s Head of a Woman and Woman in the Garden, both 1929-1930 and held by the Musée Picasso, Paris—influenced subsequent generations of sculptors. David Smith remarked that it was “González’ and Picasso’s work which brought my consciousness to this fact that art could be made out of iron.”[ii]

    [left] Pablo Picasso, Tête, 1928. Musee Picasso, Paris, Artwork © 2020 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    [right] Pablo Picasso, Tête d’homme, 1930. Musee Picasso, Paris, Artwork © 2020 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    [left] Pablo Picasso, Construction, 1928. Artwork © 2020 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    [right] Pablo Picasso, Head of a Woman, 1930. Musee Picasso, Paris, Artwork © 2020 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    The duration the two worked together proved to be extremely formative for both, whose relationship was dynamic and based on mutual exchange. While González was the expert metalsmith that Picasso was not, the latter introduced a Cubist approach to their metal assemblages. In 1928, neither artist was committed to sculpture: Picasso’s interest in the medium had been sporadic, and González principally identified as a craftsman. However, by the end of their collaboration, González devoted himself to sculpture and the medium remained a core part of Picasso’s practice for the rest of his career. The full effect of this unique partnership was even more widespread; according to Withers, the two together created “a series of assembled iron constructions with we now consider crucial to the development of modern sculpture.”[iii]
  • Margit Rowell on L'arlequin

    “While working on Picasso’s sculptures, González found himself confronted with basic forms and original techniques that he could adapt to his personal approach and develop in the course of the years that followed. In a way, L’arlequin by González expresses the essence of the lessons he had learned from Picasso while at the same time paying homage to his friend.  

    As Josephine Withers has remarked, the morphology of this sculpture has much in common with Picasso’s paintings from the 1926-1930 period on the theme of the Harlequin, and are particularly close to a 1930 canvas of the same subject that González may have known. But the treatment of this theme by Picasso was very different to that of González, as it was strictly two-dimensional. The sculpture by González, executed in the final year of their collaboration (1930-1931), seems to contain references to almost all the sculptures on which the two men worked together. It is the most successful three-dimensional sculpture González had created up until this date, and, in this respect, it represents the apogee of his education as a sculptor and the starting point for his masterpieces.”[iv]

    Margit Rowell is a renowned art historian, critic, and museum curator specializing in modern and contemporary art. 


                  Pablo Picasso, Figure (Tête d’arlequin), 1930. Musee des Beaux-Arts, Grenoble (on loan from Musee Picasso, Paris, Jacqueline Roque Picasso Collection, Dation 1990), Artwork © 2020 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 

    [i] Josephine Withers, “The Artistic Collaboration of Pablo Picasso and Julio González,” Art Journal, vol. 35, no. 2, winter 1975-1976, p. 107.  
    [ii] David Smith, “First Master of the Torch, Art News, vol. 54, no. 10, 1956, p. 36.
    [iii] Josephine Withers, “The Artistic Collaboration of Pablo Picasso and Julio González,” p. 107.
    [iv] Margit Rowell, "Julio González : La genèse de la sculpture en fer," in Jörn Merket, Julio González, Catalogue raisonné des sculptures, Milan, 1987, p. 14. 
    • Provenance

      Galerie de France, Paris
      Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above in April 1971)
      Thence by descent to the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Portland Museum of Art, Picasso, Braque, Léger, and the Cubist Spirit, 1919-1939, June 29 - October 20, 1996

    • Literature

      R. Civry, “Les arts et les artistes,” Hommes du jour, Paris, 1933 (another example illustrated)
      Ricardo Pérez Alfonseca, Julio González, Escultor en hierro y espacio forjados, Madrid, 1934, p. 9 (another example illustrated)
      Pedro Garcia Carbera, “Indice de libros, ‘Julio González’ Ricardo Pérez Alfonseca”, Gazeta de arte, 3, Teneriffe, September - October 1934, no. 30 (another example illustrated)
      Julio González, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux Arts La Chaux-de-Fonds, La Chaux-de-Fonds, 1955, p. 11 (another example illustrated)
      Vincente Aguilera Cerni, Julio González, Rome, 1962, p. XXXII (another example illustrated)
      Julio Gonzales, Les Matériaux et son Expression, New York, 1969, no. 35, n.p. (another example illustrated)
      John Canaday, “Art: Concise Survey of Julio González Sculptures on View at Saidenberg Gallery”, The New York Times, New York, March 29, 1969
      Felix Andreas Baumann, “Hinweis auf einige Neuerwerbungen, Julio González: Arlequin 1929”, Jahresbericht der Züricher Kunstgesellschaft, Zurich, 1970, pp. 83-87 (another example illustrated)
      Eisen-und Stahlplastic 1930-1970, exh. cat., Wurttembergisner Kunstverein, Stuttgart, 1970, pp. 83-87 (another example illustrated)
      Neue Züricher Zeitung, Zurich, 1970, p. 33 (another example illustrated)
      Guy Burn, “Julio Gonzalez”, Arts Review, vol. 19, London, September 26, 1970, p. 609 (another example illustrated)
      Josephine Withers, “Julio González”, Art and Artists, vol. 5, no. 7, London, October 1970, pp. 66-67, 69 (another example illustrated, p. 68)
      Georg Jappe,“Bronze statt Eisen”, Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt, 1971 (another example illustrated)
      Bulletin of the National Galleries of Scotland, no. 2, Edinburgh, 1971
      Vicente Aguilera Cerni, Julio, Joan, Roberta González-Itinerario de una dinastia, Barcelona, 1973, no. 205, p. 257 (another example illustrated)
      Gazette des Beaux Arts, Paris/New York, 1973, p. 215 (another example illustrated)
      Die Zwanziger Jahre, Kontraste eines Jahrzehnis, exh. cat., Kunstgewerbemuseum, Zurich, 1973, p. 197 (another example illustrated)
      Josephine Withers, “The Artistic Collaboration of Pablo Picasso”, Art Journal, New York, 1975, no. 14, p. 113 (another example illustrated)
      Roberta González, “Mi Padre Julio González”, Guadalimar, vol. 14, Madrid, 1976, p. 58 (another example illustrated)
      The Planar Dimension: Europe 1912-1932, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1979, no. 58, p. 93 (another example illustrated)
      Deborah Trustman, “Abuses in the Reproduction of Sculpture”, ART news, New York, Summer 1981, p. 90 (another example illustrated)
      Donald La Badie, “Guggenheim Exhibits: Success Is Giant Art Accomplishment”, Commercial Appeal, Memphis, 1983 (another example illustrated)
      Robert Hughes, “Misunderstood Master of Iron”, Time Magazine, New York, April 18, 1983, p. 158 (another example illustrated)
      John Daxland, “He torched to create work of art”, Daily News, New York, May 6, 1983 (another example illustrated)
      Ronny Cohen, “Man of Iron”, ART news, New York, Summer 1983, p. 104 (another example illustrated, p. 107)
      Barbara Dieterich, “Retrospective de Julio Gonzalez en Frankfurt y Berlin Occidental”, Goya, Madrid, November - December 1983, p. 158 (another example illustrated)
      Jörn Merkert, Julio González, catalogue raisonné des sculptures, Milan, 1987, no. 126, pp. 112-113 (iron example illustrated, p. 114)
      Julio González en la coleccion del IVAM, exh. cat., Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Valencia, 2007, p. 185 (another example illustrated)
      Maria Dolores Jiménez-Blanco, Julio González, Madrid, 2007, p. 73 (another example illustrated on the cover; another example illustrated)

    • Artist Biography

      Julio González

      Widely regarded as the “father of all iron sculpture,” Julio González is best known for his expressive use of iron as a sculptural medium and his close collaboration with the leading artists of his day, including Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brancusi. 

      González was born in Barcelona in 1876 to a family of metalworkers. After their father died, González and his brother Joan assumed ownership of the family workshop and focused their attention to furthering their artistic aspirations. The brothers immersed themselves in Barcelona’s vibrant cultural scene, frequenting the Els Quatre Gats café, where they developed friendships with artists such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. González later moved to Paris and undertook training in welding, the technique that would undergird his later artistic successes. While González worked with many of his contemporaries in Paris, his collaboration with Picasso was especially impactful as it provided González with an intellectual framework for creating linear, cubistic sculptures made of iron. González’s work from this time popularized the use of forged and welded iron in artmaking and is unique in that the artist participated directly in the creation of his work, in comparison to many of his contemporaries who sent their work to be executed at foundries.

      Gonzales’s work has been celebrated during and after his lifetime. He exhibited at the Spanish Pavilion of the 1937’s World Fair in Paris alongside Picasso’s Guernica and his work is represented in the collections of leading cultural institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. González died in Arceuil, France in 1942.

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Property from an Important American Collection


L'arlequin / Pierrot ou Colombine

incised with the artist’s initials “J.G.” on the lower right edge; further incised with the artist’s name and number “GONZALEZ © 2/4” and stamped with the foundry mark “C. Valsuani cire perdue” on the lower left edge
sculpture 16 1/2 in. (41.9 cm)
base 3 1/2 x 7 1/4 x 8 3/4 in. (8.9 x 18.4 x 22.2 cm)
overall 20 in. (50.8 cm)

Conceived in iron circa 1930 and cast in bronze at a later date, this work is number 2 from an edition of 4 plus 4 proofs marked 0, 00, EA, HC.

The iron example is housed in the permanent collection of the Kunsthaus Zürich and other examples from the bronze edition are housed in the permanent collections of the Fundación Amigos, Museo de Belles Artes, Caracas; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; and the Institut Valencià d'Art Modern.

Full Cataloguing

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $920,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
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New York
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20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 2 July 2020