Julio González

'Monsieur'' Cactus (Cactus Man I)

1939 (cast 1953–54)

During the late 1930s Julio González worked simultaneously in naturalistic and abstract idioms. His abstract mode constituted an important contribution to the development of avant-garde sculpture in both Europe and the United States. This mode is exemplified by “Monsieur” Cactus of 1939, in which he returns to the metamorphic theme of several earlier sculptures. As in works by other Spanish artists living abroad during the Civil War, the figure is anguished. Indeed, several of the more literal preparatory drawings for the sculpture suggest that the figure is shrieking. Though the distortion and dislocation of anatomical features make a clear identification difficult, with the aid of the drawings one can recognize a raised arm joined to the hip, its five fingers spread like a cluster of cylindrical cactus stems. While the synthesis of human being and cactus may reflect the identification of the Spanish peasant with the land, the metamorphic figure may more generally personify the republican cause. At the end of 1938, Franco launched a major offensive against Catalonia, González’s native province, and took its capital, Barcelona, in January of 1939, signaling the end of republican hopes.

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Artist Julio González
Original Title 'Monsieur'' Cactus (Homme Cactus I)
Date 1939 (cast 1953–54)
Medium Bronze
Dimensions 64.3 x 25 x 17 cm
Credit line Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York)
Accession 76.2553 PG 136
Collection Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Type Sculpture

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