Picasso was invited to submit a proposal for a monument to the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who died of influenza in the last days of World War I. He made a series of drawings—compositions of simple black lines on white paper—then brought these to his friend, the sculptor Julio González. An experienced metalworker, González had pioneered welded metal sculpture, which, in its proletarian origins, offered an alternative to the techniques and precious materials, such as marble and bronze, of traditional sculpture. Using iron rods as analogues to the black lines of Picasso’s drawings, González created four similar sculptures whose open work structures reference their graphic origins. The diffuse volumes, permeable surfaces, and broad stance of these works suggest the spread of lines across a page. The original maquettes were two feet tall; Picasso gave this larger version to MoMA as a model for a monumental version twice its size that was constructed in 1972 and is now in the Museum’s collection.
Gallery label from Focus: Picasso Sculpture, July 3–November 3, 2008.