Domínguez, Óscar

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Óscar Domínguez

San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1906

Paris, 1957


In 1927, Óscar Domínguez was sent to Paris to organize the export side of his father’s banana business. He stayed with his aunt, who was married to a painter. He soon began to mix with the artists of Montparnasse, becoming close to the Surrealist circle of André Breton, and met Paul Éluard, Man Ray and Wifredo Lam. In 1928 he exhibited at the Circle of Fine Arts in Tenerife with French artist Lily Guetta

In addition to his illustration work, in 1929 he created his first paintings under the surrealist influence of Dalí, Tanguy and Max Ernst. In 1933 he held his first solo show at the Circle of Fine Arts in Tenerife, sponsored by the Gaceta de Arte group. In 1934 he joined Breton’s circle, introducing references to the Canary Islands landscape to surrealism. In 1935, he took part in the Surrealist Exhibition of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, organized by Westerdahl, where he signed the manifesto Du temps que les surréalistes avaient raison (On the Time When the Surrealists Were Right). 

During this time, he made his mark in the exclusive Paris milieu of the surrealists with his decals and splendid surrealist objects of 1934-1935, some of which were shown in 1936 at the Exhibition of Surrealist Objects at the Charles Ratton Gallery. The decals, which were based on a procedure arising from chance, produced an evocative result that was open to interpretation. This technique spread rapidly in Surrealist circles and influenced informal painting in the 1950s. In addition, Domínguez created works in which they served as templates, further marginalizing their interpretation; these were known as “automatic decalcomania with premediated interpretation”. 

During the Spanish Civil War he remained on his native island until he managed to escape to Paris. He always was one of the most determined animators of Spanish Surrealism. His cosmic period dates from 1938-1939, when he introduced crystallized forms and reticular structures in his work. Around the same time, he came up with the Theory of the Petrification of Time with Ernesto Sábato

During the Second World War, he moved to Marseilles with the intention of traveling to the United States. Back in Paris, he collaborated with the La Main à Plume group. Later, he broke away from Breton’s surrealism in defense of Éluard’s political position. In the early 1940s, the metaphysical influence of De Chirico and Picasso made itself felt in his work, uniting Surrealism and Cubism. During those years he illustrated Éluard’s Poésie et verité (Poetry and Truth) with etchings and also published his own book of verse, Les deux qui se croisent (The Two that Intersect). After the war, he was honored with exhibitions in Germany and Czechoslovakia. 

In the last year of his life he worked on the limits of abstraction and reignited his interest in automatism. Physically deformed and suffering from severe pain due to his acromegalia, he committed suicide in Paris during the New Year celebrations of 1957.

Noemi de Haro