Roberta Gonzalez (1909-1976)

“She has the strength of a bull, that girl”.


Roberta Gonzalez was born in 1909 in Paris to a mother from Auvergne and Julio Gonzalez, the Spanish sculptor and painter associated with the Cubist and Surrealist movements as well as with pictorial abstraction, and the initiator of Picasso in the art of iron sculpture.

Roberta’s early years were spent in a stimulating and rich atmosphere, surrounded by a family devoted to Art. She visited the classical museums but also the Modern Art exhibitions and started to exhibit in 1933. She exhibited regularly at the Surindépendants between 1934 and 1951, but also in Paris, Barcelona and Prague, then in Latin America and the USA.

In 1939, she married Hans HARTUNG, a French painter of German origin, a master of abstraction who opened new horizons for her. However, their respective careers and romance were interrupted by the Second World War. The González-Hartung family left Paris, where Hartung was hunted down by the Germans, and fled to the Lot.

During this trying period, Roberta painted portraits of her family, but also deformed and broken female figures, witnesses of the violence of the war.
In the 1950s, the artist sought a more personal style and her painting tended towards abstraction: it became purely symbolic while still being figurative. Her works are dominated by her passion for animals, especially birds, and reveal obsessive themes: mute faces like masks symbolizing lost loved ones, flaming red arrows and suns, reminders of the fires that surrounded her home.

She also sought to bring color into her rather dark palette, as can be seen in the museum’s collection with the painting “Woman at the Window”, from 1952. Each of her paintings is largely painted in transparent and muted colors, disregarding the detail where the human being is reduced to its simplest expression: a shadow of a face, long silhouettes of women with a pure and elegant design, divided between shadow and light, between matter and spirit, between life and death.

In 1956, she divorced and remarried ten years later to an electronics engineer. Roberta then shares her life between Hay-les-Roses and Bormes-les-Mimosas, where she draws and builds in 1958 her house on the heights of the village, true cubist masterpiece, dominating Lavandou and the islands of Levant. Carmen Martinez and Viviane Grimminger, legatees of Roberta Gonzalez, gave the house and the land to the commune in 1996. At their request, the municipality left the park open to the public and created a garden with Australian vegetation.

Title : Essai d’approche
Artist : Roberta Gonzalez
Material and technique : Oil on canvas