Lot 6
  • 6

Julio González

400,000 - 600,000 USD
698,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Julio González
  • Masque I

  • Inscribed with the signature J. González
  • Iron, forged and soldered


John Graham, New York (acquired from the artist)

David Smith, New York (acquired from the above in 1934)

Galerie de France, Paris

Rita and Taft Schreiber, Beverly Hills (acquired from the above in May 1966)

By descent to the present owner


"David Smith," Arts, New York, February 1960, illustrated

Art Digest, Inc., New York, p. 44

Josephine Withers, Julio González, Sculpture in Iron, New York, 1978, no. 13, catalogued p. 157

Jörn Merkert, Julio González, Catalogue raisonné des sculptures, Milan, 1987, no. 82, illustrated p. 59 (with measurements including the David Smith base)

Catalogue Note

The iron masks of Julio González are among the most rare and coveted works of Surrealist sculpture. The present example, which is entirely unique, is one of González's first sculptural renderings in forged metal.  According to the Abstract Expressionist sculptor David Smith, who once owned the work and created the base on which it stands, González's demonstrative mastery of metalwork elevated him to the role of "the father of all iron sculpture of this century" (quoted in J. Merkert, et al., op. cit., p. 332).   

Masque I dates from the late 1920s, when Surrealism was at the height of its popularity among the avant garde, as was the Surrealist fascination with African tribal fetish objects and masks.  The simplification of facial features in González's mask, created with soldered pieces of metal, bears similarities with ritualistic masks from central Africa that González would have seen in Paris.  González was also collaborating with Picasso at this time, and the aesthetic influence of Picasso's masks from 1907-08 may have also played their part in González's creation here. 

In 1928, Picasso had turned to González for instruction in the techniques of metal work, which was a radically new approach for rendering fine art sculpture.  Up until the 1930s, sculpture was commonly carved or modelled by the artist, and metal was reserved for the casting process by the founder.  But González's direct manipulation of metal was something that transformed the genre forever.  In fact, when the artist David Smith first saw González's iron works in the collection of his friend John Graham in the 1930s, he shifted his artistic attention from painting to sculpture, applying his skills as an automotive welder to the three-dimensional forms that would later earn him his reputation as the greatest American sculptor of the 1950s and 1960s.  Masque I, which Smith acquired directly from Graham in 1934, was no doubt instrumental in the evolution of his career.  The fact that Smith signed the bottom of his wooden base for this work illustrates the extent to which he joined his own legacy as a sculptor with that of González.