'The Age of Iron began many centuries ago, by producing (unhappily) arms – some very beautiful. Today it makes possible the building of bridges, railroads. [...] Today the door is opened wide to this material to be at last forged and hammered by the peaceful hands of artists'
Masque 'Ombre et lumière' is a magnificent example of González's increasing move towards abstraction that characterised his work of the first half of the 1930s. In his series of heads and masks executed during this period, González further developed his technique of 'drawing in space', that resulted in a number of remarkable sculptures constructed of simple geometrical elements, put together in such a way as to subtly suggest a human form. Blurring the line between figuration and abstraction, this work reflects the artist's innovative manipulation of positive and negative spaces, incorporating light and shadow into the make up of the sculpture.
This abstract quality of González's sculpture from this period was extremely influential to sculptors of the younger generation, including artists such as David Smith (fig. 1), Anthony Caro and Eduardo Chillida. In a paper written for the symposium 'The New Sculpture' in 1952, David Smith commented about this important source of inspiration in his own work: 'Before knowing what art was or before going to art school, as a factory worker I was acquainted with steel and the machines used in forging it. During my second years in art school I learned about Cubism, Picasso [fig. 2] and González through Cahiers d'Art. From them I learned that art was being made with steel – the material and machines that had previously meant only labor and earning power' (quoted in David Smith: Realted Clues. Drawings, Paintings & Sculpture 1931-1964 (exhibition catalogue), Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2004, p. 9).
Born into a family of decorative metalsmiths, from an early age González worked in his father's shop, where he was exposed to all kinds of metal. He was particularly fascinated by hand-forged iron objects and today his iron constructions are the most acclaimed in his œuvre. The present work is the original unique version in iron, which was later cast in a bronze edition of 8 plus 5 artist's proofs.
Fig. 1, David Smith, Tanktotem VI, 1957, painted steel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Fig. 2, Pablo Picasso, Tête, 1962-64, iron and sheet metal, The Art Institute of Chicago
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Julio González: A Retrospective, 1983, no. 124, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from circa 1932)
Frankfurt, Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut & Berlin, Akademie der Künste, Julio González. Plastiken, Zeichnungen, Kunstgewerbe, 1983, no. 66, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from circa 1931-32)
Height (not including base): 25cm. 9 7/8 in.
Vicente Aguilera Cerni, Julio, Joan, Roberta González - Itinerario de una dinastía, Barcelona, 1973, no. 159, illustrated p. 216 (as dating from circa 1934-35)
Jörn Merkert, Julio González, Catalogue raisonné des sculptures, Milan, 1987, no. 107, illustrated p. 90
Roberta González, L'Hay-les-Roses (the artist's daughter)
Succession González, Paris
Marwan Hoss, Paris
Galerie de France, Paris
Acquired directly from the above by 1983