“Daphné” (c. 1937), one of Julio González’s most important sculptures, is currently on display at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours.
It is an innovative, personal interpretation of the ancient Greek myth in which the young nymph transforms into a tree to thwart the sun god Apollo’s unwanted advances. The ethereal rods at the top of the sculpture, representing Daphné’s upper body, contrast with the solid fullness of the rectangular iron planes, representing her lower body being transformed into a tree trunk. This subject resonated with González’s interest in metamorphoses, as well as his aesthetic experiments concerning full vs light, linear forms.
“Daphné” is displayed in the museum’s “galerie de Diane”, home to 18th century French works like Jean-Antoine Houdon’s “Diane chasseresse” (1790). This neoclassical bronze depicts the goddess of the hunt mid-stride, gracefully balanced on her left foot. Her bow and arrow in hand, she seems to be preparing to strike her target.
A rich dialogue ensues between these two depictions of the female body inspired by classical myths and their contrasting formal and thematic qualities–naturalistic vs. abstracted, curved vs. straight, smooth vs. rugged, in movement vs. in transformation, confident vs. distressed. The conversation is further enriched by the presence in the same gallery of additional contemporary artworks on loan from the Pompidou Center’s collection, including photography by Valérie Belin and Serge Mouillé’s “Objet Cactus” (1960-1980). These metallic sculptures composed of pointy, geometric shapes and the empty space that surrounds them align aesthetically and thematically with González’s own work, where the cactus man/woman is very present in the final years of his life.
These modern and contemporary works will remain on display at the musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours through January 8, 2024.