Julio González, Pablo Picasso and the dematerialization of sculpture

SEP.23.2022          JAN.08.2023

Julio González, Pablo Picasso and the Dematerialisation of Sculpture

Julio González
Gran maternidad, 1934
Photo: Tate
Pablo Picasso
Figura: proyecto para un monumento a Guillaume Apollinaire, París, otoño de 1928
Musée national Picasso-Paris
© Sucesión Pablo Picasso. VEGAP, Madrid, 2022
Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Adrien Didierjean

Home > Art and Culture > Exhibitions > Recoletos Exhibition Hall > Julio González, Pablo Picasso and the dematerialization of sculpture



SEP.23.2022        JAN.08.2023


Recoletos Exhibition Hall
Paseo Recoletos 23, 28004 Madrid

Tel: 915 81 61 00


Opening hours:
Mondays (except holidays): 2 pm – 8 pm
Tuesday to Saturday: 11 am – 8 pm
Sunday and holidays: 11 am – 7 pm

December 25th, January 1st and 6th

Limited opening hours:
December 24th and 31th, January 5th: 11 am – 3 pm

*The evacuation of the hall starts 10 minutes before closing time. Last access (7:30 pm or 6:30 pm) only allows a 20 minutes tour to the exhibitions.

How to arrive

Buses: 5 – 14 – 27 – 37 – 45 – 53 – 150

Subway: Line 4 (Colón), line 2 (Banco de España) and line 5 (Chueca)

Trains: C-2, C-7, C-8 and C-10


Available online in Spanish and English. Accessible via mobile without downloads or installations.

Also available in audio device obtainable in the hall (if available).

Price: €4


Ramp for wheelchair access – The three floors of the hall are accessed by a generously-sized elevator.


Locker Service.


LAIE Tel. 911 703 851 fmapfre@laie.es

Traditionally, the joint work between Pablo Picasso and Julio González has been considered by art historiography as the moment at which iron sculpture was “invented” and, therefore, the introduction of abstraction into the realm of sculpture. However, and for the first time, the present exhibition shows how this fact, one of the fundamental milestones in the international art of the 20th century, was not an isolated one-off event, but the consequence of a process that, in the words of Tomàs Llorens, curator of the exhibition at the origin of this project, “responded to an impulse of transparency and dematerialization that shook up, in a variety of ways, the artistic creation of the late 1920s and early 1930s”.

Julio González, Pablo Picasso and the dematerialization of sculpture is the last great project of Tomàs Llorens, one of the most brilliant and iconic art historians of our country, who passed away on June 10, 2021. Curated together with his son Boye, this exhibition culminates a line of research to which the historian devoted a major part of his work for much of his career.

Exhibition organized by Fundación MAPFRE with the collaboration of the Musée national Picasso-Paris, the Spanish National Commission for the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Death of Spanish Artist Pablo Picasso, and the González Administration.

Julio González, Pablo Picasso y la desmaterialización de la escultura

This show is part of the official programme of the Picasso Celebration 1973–2023, supported in Spain by Telefónica as corporate sponsor.

Julio González, Pablo Picasso

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Julio González, Pablo Picasso and the dematerialization of sculpture

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PLUS Ticket

  • TICKET and AUDIO GUIDE for Julio González, Pablo Picasso and the dematerialization of sculpture and Ilse Bing. The audio guide is accessible online, from your Smartphone, without downloads or installations. An audio device can also be requested in the room (if available).
  • Prices: PLUS General Admission: €9. PLUS Reduced Admission: €7.
  • Does not incluye headphones. You can add them (€1) during the online purchase or at the ticket office. For sustainability reasons we recommend you to bring your own headphones.

Guided Tour (in Spanish)

  • In a tour of approximately one hour, our cultural mediators comment on the main works of the exhibition, sharing with the participants aesthetic and historical keys to deepen and enrich the exciting experience of contact with the works of art that every visit to a museum provides.
  • Price: 7€. The ticket also allows to visit Ilse Bing.
  • Hours: Tuesdays to Thursdays: 11.30 am, 12:30 am and 5.30 pm. Each group will be made up of a maximum of 10 visitors.
  • The visit is carried out in spanish with an audio-guided system. No translation into english is offered. Disposable headphones are provided, but for sustainability reasons we recommend you to bring your own headphones.

Individual Ticket

  • Allows to visit Julio González, Pablo Picasso and the dematerialization of sculpture and Ilse Bing.
  • General admission: €5.
  • Reduced admission: €3 (Beneficiaries of reduced admission).
  • Free Access (0€): Mondays (except holidays) from 2 pm to 8 pm.

The beneficiaries of free admission must obtain their ticket at the ticket office in the room.

MAPFRE Clients

  • MAPFRE offers to its policyholders 2 free tickets (4 if Platinum Client) to visit Julio González, Pablo Picasso and the dematerialization of sculpture and Ilse Bing on the date they choose.
  • To obtain courtesy tickets of MAPFRE, access the online ticket office and follow the purchase process. Before payment, the program will request your ID and will automatically activate the free tickets that correspond to you.
  • You can also get them at the ticket office in the room, presenting your ID.
  • Invitations must be used in a single visit.
  • Any question you have, please check these simple instructions.

Collaborating Entities

  • If you belong to any of the entities that collaborate with Fundación MAPFRE, you must obtain your reduced ticket (€ 1) at the ticket office in the room.


  • If you have already purchased a individual ticket and want to add the audio guide, you can purchase it here. Price: 4 €
  • The audio guide is accessible online, from your Smartphone, without downloads or installations. An audio device can also be requested in the room (if available).
  • Does not incluye headphones. You can add them (€1) during the online purchase or at the ticket office. For sustainability reasons we recommend you to bring your own headphones.


Group Visit

  • It's mandatory for the Group Visit to have a guide or person in charge. To request a guide from the Foundation, ask please for information and rates to: cultura@fundacionmafpre.org
  • The group must be made up of a minimum of 6 pax. a maximum of 15 pax (guide included).
  • The use of an audio-guiding system is mandatory for the visit. If the group does not have its own, you must add it (€1/pax) during the online purchase process.
  • Schedule: Mondays: 3 pm, 4 pm. From Tuesdays to Fridays: 11 am, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, 4 pm, 5 pm and 6 pm.
  • Maximum duration of the visit: 60 min.
  • The formalization of the booking implies the acceptance of the Rules for the visit, especially those indicated for "Group Tour".



Educational activities for schools are developed entirely in Spanish. If you are interested please consult section Colegios y Familias.


Educational activities for families are developed entirely in Spanish. If you are interested please consult section Colegios y Familias.


  • Tickets changes or returns are not allowed except for justified force majeure.
  • The purchase of tickets presupposes the acceptance of the Rules for the visit. We recommend reading it before entering the room.
  • Fundación MAPFRE is not responsible for the rates, schedules and other information applied on the websites of other entities where tickets for their exhibitions can be purchased.
  • If the online ticket purchasing process is cancelled, suspended or cut off, please contact our support telephone numbers: +34 915 816 100 (attention exclusively during the opening hours of the exhibition hall).

How to give form to nothingness? This is what Picasso asked himself when he was commissioned to create a monument to commemorate his friend Guillaume Apollinaire after his death in 1918. This question, to which the artist would not give a response until almost ten years later, was inspired by a passage from Le Poète assassiné [The Poet Assassinated], a more or less autobiographical novel by the writer in which the protagonist announced his own death. When the poet Croniamantal —who is none other than Apollinaire— dies, “The Bird of Benin” —who embodies Picasso— announces that he is going to erect a statue of him. “A statue of what?” asks Tristouse, the deceased’s girlfriend. “Of marble? Of bronze?” “No” answers The Bird of Benin, I have to sculpt a profound statue of nothing, like poetry, like glory…”.

Picasso, who was familiar with González’s work, knew that the latter had been researching metal sculpture as a natural evolution of his trade as a goldsmith, and it was undoubtedly this fact that, when he had to answer the question posed at the beginning of this epigraph, made him call his old friend to help him. The first thing Picasso had in mind was to make a cage, because, as Tomàs Llorens says in one of his texts about this episode, “Cages shape the air. They enclose it without enclosing it, because there is nothing freer than air in a cage.”

The collaboration between González and Picasso, friends since the days of modernist Barcelona, began in September 1928. The process of working together was drawn out over time and finally did not materialize, at least not as planned, due to continuing differences with the committee, which expected a traditional memorial. Despite this, it did bear fruit. González created a series of dematerialized sculptures on which he would work for the rest of his career and which would posthumously earn him the reputation as one of the fathers of abstract sculpture in iron, despite the fact that he himself stressed his detachment from this trend. Picasso, on the other hand, learned the possibilities of forge work and iron welding taught by Gonzalez, and created some of the most significant sculptures of the last century, such as Woman in the Garden.

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Catalan Modernism: Catalan Modernism was the short-lived but intense movement that played a leading role in Catalan cultural history from 1880 to the first decade of the 20th century. Its importance was linked to that of two fundamental names, Antoni Gaudí and the first Pablo Picasso —up until his attachment to the Parisian avant-garde through cubism.

The main manifestation of Catalan modernism was in the field of architecture and the decorative arts, which, for the first time in Spain, began to be regarded as a discipline falling within the fine arts. This process was supported by the development of a Barcelona that began to undergo the transformations of the Industrial Revolution and become a cosmopolitan city open to the world. Artists and intellectuals enthusiastically embraced the experience of modern life in all its expressions, but subsequently, during the late modernist period, they rejected it. They became more interested in the life of the poor and destitute, in a style of painting that resulted in what is known today as “miserabilism”. In addition, artists such as Joaquim Mir, Joaquim Sunyer, Isidre Nonell and Pablo Picasso shifted their gaze to a certain primitivism and classicism, a trend that had in the figures of Puvis de Chavannes, Paul Gauguin and, above all, El Greco some of its greatest exponents. It was in this artistic climate of late modernist Barcelona that the foundations of the friendship between González and Picasso were laid, and it was also a context that marked the future of their respective creative paths.

Julio González, from goldsmith to sculptor: Goldsmithing and sculpting are intimately linked in Julio Gonzalez’s career. And it is no less true that the idea of reviving traditional crafts, practically lost since the Middle Ages, as was the case of goldsmithing, was an essential part of the Modernist agenda that the artist experienced during his youth. For years, he and his brother Joan worked in the workshop of their father, Concordio González, a craftsman specialized in iron forging and goldsmithing, a job that, in the case of González, was a substitute for his training in the school of fine arts. Today we know that some of the jewelry he made there was sent to international fairs, pieces inspired by plant and other natural forms, in line with Ruskin’s ideas. Three years after their father’s death, the two brothers closed the family business to settle in Paris and pursue a career as painters. However, goldsmithing or decorative commissions continued to be Julio Gonzalez’s main source of income throughout his life.

In 1913, he opened a store for the sale of jewelry and objets d’art at 136 Boulevard Raspail, and in his first shipments of works to the Parisian Salon des Indépendants and Salon d’Automne he registered as a “painter and goldsmith”. In 1918, he joined the Renault factory as a worker, where he learned the autogenous welding technique, which he would use in the new iron sculptures he would create years later. In 1929, he presented only iron sculptures at the Salon d’Automne, thereby demonstrating his definitive choice for this medium.

Dematerialization of sculpture: In the second half of the 1920s, in Paris, there was a general trend towards the dematerialization of sculpture volumes. Artists such as Jacques Lipchitz, Alberto Giacometti and Henri Laurens rejected the traditional concept of round sculpture and expressed their curiosity for transparency through the dissolution of volumes into different planes to create a play of light and shadow or incorporate emptiness into their compositions. The collaborative works of González and Picasso are part of this “zeitgeist”. A decade later, the Catalan artist carried this tendency to its peak with what he called “drawing in space”, a drawing that, consisting of metallic lines, materializes in the three-dimensionality of space.

Celebración de Picasso 1973-2023: 50 exposiciones y eventos para celebrar a Picasso

April 8, 2023, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso and thus the year will represent a celebration of his work and his artistic legacy in France, Spain and internationally.

The French and Spanish governments wished to mark this transnational event through a bi-national commission, bringing together the cultural and diplomatic administrations of both countries.

The Picasso Celebration 1973-2023 revolves around some fifty exhibitions and events to be held at renowned cultural institutions in Europe and North America that, together, address a historiographical analysis of Picasso’s work. The commemoration, accompanied by official celebrations in France and Spain, will make it possible to take stock of the research and interpretations of the artist’s work, especially during an important international symposium in autumn 2023, which also coincides with the opening of the Center for Picasso Studies in Paris.

The Musée national Picasso-Paris and the Spanish National Commission for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of Pablo Picasso are pleased to support this exceptional program.

Julio González, Pablo Picasso


See the complete list of all Picasso Celebration exhibitions (70 KB)

El acróbata, 1930

Pablo Picasso, L’acrobat, 1930.
Oil on canvas. Musée national Picasso-Paris.
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Adrien Didierjean
© Sucesión Pablo Picasso. VEGAP, Madrid, 2022

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