González de la Serna, Ismael

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Ismael González de la Serna

Guadix, Granada, 1898

Paris, 1968


The cousin of the writer Ramón Gómez de la Serna, he was a childhood friend of García Lorca and Ángeles Ortiz in Granada. After training at the Granada School of Arts and Crafts, he left for Madrid at the age of 16. His visits to the Prado and his attendance as a free student at the Academy of San Fernando were a decisive part of his education. The exhibition Great French Impressionist Painters held at the Museum of Modern Art in the Spanish capital had a huge impact on him. His own work from those years is enshrined in the naturalism of the Spanish painting of that period, pointing to impressionist influences, as was evident in his exhibition at the Ateneu that same year. 

Between 1917 and 1921 he lived in Granada but then left for Paris, where he came into contact with the avantgarde circle and joined the so-called Paris School. He met Picasso – who had a big influence on his later work – who, along with Tériade and Zervos, praised his first exhibition, held in 1927 thanks to Paul Guillaume. The support of all them, and that of Jean Cassou, was fundamental to ensuring his success in the 1920s. Influenced by his circle, his painting at that time drew closer to post-Cubism, while classic influences continued and, later on, certain hints of surrealism. 

In the late 1920s and early 1930s he was involved in a large number of exhibitions, achieving both critical and commercial success. He illustrated publications such as Sonetos de Góngora in its Cahiers d’Art edition, and Impressions and Landsapes by Federico García Lorca. In 1932 he exhibited in Madrid as a guest of the Iberian Society of Friends of the Arts, and in Cannes he married Zervos’ ex-wife. Together they travelled to Madrid and from there to Granada in 1933. The expressionist tones of his painting, with a certain Germanic resonance, became accentuated with the Spanish Civil War. From then on, he removed himself from the artistic world to seek new plastic experiences. His work began to break away from the influence of Cubism, alternating different phases marked by surrealism, expressionism and abstraction. At the same time, his preoccupation with technique was accentuated, to the detriment of the subject. His still lifes, landscapes and figures reflected a bizarre expressionist vision of the tragedy that was unfolding in Spain. In 1937 he took part in the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exposition. 

After the war, he made very few appearances on the art scene. His experiments with abstraction were followed by a return to naturalism, developing a neoclassical style that was enriched with different avantgarde elements. He returned to public life in 1952, although he held few exhibitions. On his death in 1968 in Paris, a group of his friends paid tribute to him in Granada. 

Noemi de Haro