Julio González on display at the new MoMA in New York, October 2019

New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has reopened its doors to the public after massive renovations. The exhibition space has been vastly expanded and the display of the collection “remixed” according to chronological and thematic considerations.

Now on the display on the fifth floor devoted to art from 1880 to the 1940s is Julio González’s “Tête de Montserrat criant” from 1942. This work is displayed in gallery 522, alongside sculptures of various supports, styles and media, made by artists of various nationalities, like Alberto Giacometti and Barbara Hepworth, whose work reflects the anguish, uncertainty and violence of the 1930s and 40s, from the rise of Fascism to the explosion of the Second World War.

Tête de Montserrat criant (Head of Screaming Montserrat) was sculpted by González in 1942, during the Nazi Occupation of Paris. The motif of the Catalan Peasant Mother, or Montserrat (1937, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam), is the subject of González’s iron sculpture displayed in the Spanish Republican Pavilion of the 1937 World’s Fair, alongside Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. It is meant to express the courage of the people of Republican Spain under attack by the fascist rebels, as well as his support and solidarity with them. However, as the war expanded from the Iberian Peninsula to the rest of Europe, the Montserrat came to be a universal expression the suffering and anguish of civilian victims of war.

Tête de Montserrat criant (Head of Screaming Montserrat), a bronze cast made from a plaster original, is one of three sculptures and some twenty-five drawings conserved in the museum’s collection, including two of González’s unique iron works, Reclining figure (1934) and Head (c. 1935). The latter work was initially purchased from the artist by art critic and gallery owner Christian Zervos. Beyond the Parisian artistic scene, González’s work was noticed during his lifetime by MoMA curators like James Johnson Sweeney and its first director, Alfred Barr. His work has been displayed in 28 exhibitions over the course of the historic museum’s 87 year history, starting with the groundbreaking show “Cubism and Abstract Art” in 1936.

Tête de Montserrat Criant, 1942, bronze. MoMA. Photo (c) Aude Hendgen.