In 1968, the Museum of Modern Art in Tarragona was bequeathed a large part of the work of Julio Antonio (Móra d’Ebre–Madrid 1919).

Although the exhibition shows several aspects of Julio Antonio’s work, particularly his attempts at renewing sculpture in Spain and his links to the literary movement Generación del 98.

Julio Antonio Rodríguez Hernández (1889-1919) Julio Antonio started to draw at a very early age and his academic training was minimal. He received his first lessons in this field from a teacher from Mora del Ebro, Lluís Vinyes Viñales. He would later attend the classes of Maria Pedrol at Ateneu Tarraconense de la Clase Obrera, training which he would continue, working with various sculptures such as Bernat Verderol, Feliu Ferré i Galzeran and Miquel Blay; it was at the workshop of the Olot sculptor where he received the best training in this discipline. Drawing was vitally important to our sculptor, he did it at anytime and anywhere, and with a constant and almost absolute subject matter in his output, the human figure, except for the architectural environments he designed for this monument projects. Only in the beginning did he produce drawings of urban landscapes, which he presented at his first exhibition in Tarragona in 1908, most of which are now lost. It was at the workshop of Miquel Blay where he was first able to draw in a favourable environment, which he took full advantage of. Santos Torroella told us that he worked intensely there, as he also did at the Circle of Fine Art of Madrid. The influence of modernism is notable in his work during these years. On leaving the workshop of Miquel Blay, Julio Antonio would embark on a completely free career path, guided and inspired solely by his own aspirations and his desire to succeed and become the most important sculptor in Spain. Whether at his workshop or in the street, he always had a notebook and a pencil to hand to start drawing. Eduardo Ducay says that when he returned from his travels through Italy and France, he went to Almadén, where he spent his time drawing using a model or taking notes from miners or people in the Plaça del Contador or in Ovalo, etc.. Through all of them we are able to study the body under different concepts, his academies, from the natural bodies (nuda veritas), to the grandiose and idealised figures he created for his monuments. Works in which the affinities and influences of artists from different periods are present, where we can also see the changes that occurred in his development as a creator, in the determined and constant struggle that was his short life, in order to achieve the goal that he had set himself from a fine start.
The Busts or the Race
The Busts of the Race are part of a series of sculptures in pursuit of Julio Antonio’s goal of sculpting representatives of the people: anonymous men and women, considered essential pillars of the race according to the ideas shared by most of the members of the Generation of 98, in particular his writer friends Ramón Gómez de la Serna and Eugenio Noel. This has led some scholars to state that Julio Antonio personified the ideals of this generation more than any other sculptor. Ideals of regeneration which enabled them to overcome the defeatism into which Spain had sunk at the turn of the century. Julio Antonio set off on a journey around Spain to find models, accompanied by Miquel Viladrich. He was seeking direct contact with the reality of the country, characters who could go beyond their individuality to become an eternal present. In 1910 produced, Hombre de la Mancha and Minero de Almadén. In 1914 Julio Antonio spent a stay in Ávila and in the Guadarrama hills in order to get back to work on the series of the Busts of the Race, and to recover his health somewhat. From this period we have: Moza de Aldea del Rey, Ávila de los Caballeros, Cabrero de las tierras de Zamora and El Novicio.

In 1909 he produced Minera de Puertollano, Rosa María, Mujer de Castilla, Ventero de Peñalsordo.

The precendent for all these pieces was María la gitana, "amante que fue del Pernales", a personal portrayal of character who has her own story but at the same time transmit all the symbolism of the Busts of the Race.

The monuments
Julio Antonio’s monumental work began in 1910 with a plan for a monument entitled Lizard for the city of Córdoba, and was completed in 1919, the year of his death, with the plan for a monument to Enric Granados. During this decade his creative ability was focused on recognising various personalities, but also touched on more sublime concepts such as work, poetry, or spirituality. Some of these works resulted from commissions and others were on his own initiative. Predominant in all of them, however, was the search for the genuine identity of the subject, expressed through formal calm.

It represents the city of Tarragona. Julio Antonio was aware of the importance of the city’s Roman past, and for this reason opted for a figure related to the classical world.

Only the head remains of this monumental sculpture. In 1969 the sculptor Bruno Gallart made a reproduction, which is now sited in the gardens of the Camp de Mart in Tarragona.

Julio Antonio requested a portrait of the musician and to listen to his music. As soon as the artist came into contact with the works of Wagner, he started to design his initial studies.

In 1916 the competition to erect a monument to Cervantes was the event of the year in Madrid. Displayed in the Retiro Palace, the project submitted by the group of intellectuals chaired by Julio Antonio was one of outstanding beauty.

The drawings
The movements or gestures of the models are accompanied by a series of lines which reinforce or underline the artistic value of the composition. The artist succeeds in transmitting more strength and expressiveness from his figures by occupying the entire area of the medium, even leaving a part of the torso outside it, in such a way that the action continues beyond the frame.

What Julio Antonio wanted was for the models to adopt postures which required the torso to be in tension in order to emphasize the musculature; he usually made them stretch a cord or carry a weight.

The women in this series have a more relaxed attitude, although their figures also invade the basic plane and continue beyond its borders.

Credits: Story

Text by Antonio Salcedo

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