The dragon tree of the Canaries | The painter Óscar Domínguez, 1906-57


Oscar Dominguez, Girl with a Skipping Rope, 1945                                     Oscar Dominguez, Le Peintre et son Modèle, 1945
Oscar Dominguez, Silent Listener, 1943                                             Oscar Dominguez, Composición con Fondo Azul, 1949
Oscar Dominguez, Les Odalisques, 1945                                                  Oscar Dominguez, Toros, 1950
Oscar Dominguez, Femmes o Mujeres, 1942                                       Oscar Dominguez, Tauromaquia, 1943
Oscar Dominguez, Femme à l'Ecritoire, 1943                         Oscar Dominguez, La Máquina de Coser, 1943
Oscar Dominguez, El Mapamundi, 1943                                      Oscar Dominguez, La fin du voyage I, 1943
Óscar Domínguez, Tenerife, 1926                                   Óscar Domínguez with his wife Maud Bonneau

Oscar Dominguez (1906-1957) was a Spanish Surrealist painter whose works were inspired by Yves Tanguy, De Chirico and Picasso. During the 1940's, his paintings were strongly influenced by Picasso with whom he had become friends while living in Paris. He was the son of a wealthy farmer from Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, Spain, he spent his youth with his grandmother and, as a self-taught artist, devoted himself to painting at a young age after suffering a serious illness which affected his growth and caused a progressive deformation of his facial bone frame and limbs.

His earliest paintings were primarily landscapes, but after moving to Paris at the age of 21 to deliver bananas, helping his father in his business, he became enamored with the works of Dali, Tanguy and Picasso. In 1933 he met Andre Breton, a theoretician of Surrealism, and Paul Eluard, known as the poet of this movement, and took part in many Surrealist shows.

Oscar Dominguez, 1956 /   Viscountess Marie Laure De Noailles With Maurice Van Moppes, Oscar Dominguez Et Lucien Coutaud, 
Vertes, Vieira Da Silva, Felix Labisse and Georges Wakhevitch at Cabaret La Castagnette in Paris (They Decored The Walls), 1953
Andre Breton and Oscar Dominguez discovering the trompe l'oeil entrance to the Gradiva Gallery, just as it is being installed by Marcel Duchamp, 1937
/ Émile Savitry, Nude in Óscar Domínguez's studio in Paris, 1950's


In 1933 he took part in the Exhibition of Surrealist Objects at the Galerie Pierre Colle in Paris (he was evidently a creator of amazing objects, most of which have since been lost); and, in 1934, he visited Copenhagen for the International Exhibition of Surrealism. From then on, many of his paintings featured the motif of an opened can of sardines (as in Los Porrones [The Jugs], 1935). Paintings like La Machine à coudre électro-sexuelle [The electro-sexual sewing machine], from 1935, had great success within the group.

Óscar Domínguez, La Machine à coudre électro-sexuelle, 1935 >

He would go down in the history of surrealism as the person who wounded Victor Brauner in 1938, causing him to lose an eye.

At the outbreak of war, he tried to leave France, spending a little time in Perpignan and later in Marseille, visiting Breton and others, and taking part in the famous Jeu de Marseille deck of tarot cards, for which he created the designs Freud mage de rêve – Étoile and As de rêve – Étoile’. Unable to leave France, he returned to Paris and participated in the activities of the La Main à plume group as one of their main illustrators.

Afterwards he breaks his relations with Breton and gets under the influence of De Chirico, and thus comes his metaphysical period 1942-1943. Later he becomes friends with Picasso 1944-1948, and so starts his Picassian period.



This evolution of his techniques so disappointed his surrealist friends that he was excluded from the International Exhibition of Surrealism in 1947 (Galerie Maeght in Paris). His very last surrealist work was the inscription ‘I wish death upon 30,000 priests every three minutes’ in the Surrealist Exhibition in 1945 (Brussels) .

A major retrospective at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 1955 demonstrated the originality of the artist whom Breton dubbed ‘the dragon tree of the Canaries’.

Domínguez committed suicide on New Year's Eve 1957 by slitting his wrists, just as, on the other side of Paris, his best friend Jacques Hérold fell down dead, a palette in his hand, after drinking what was purported to be blood while improvising a scene in a group surrealist game.


Émile Savitry, Óscar Domínguez facing his sculpture "Le Défi", Paris, 1950's / Émile Savitry, Óscar Domínguez and friends with Domínguez' sculpture "Le Défi", Paris, 1950's
Oscar Dominguez,Femme au diabolo, 1937 / Man Ray: Model in Lucien Lelong gown, seated in wheelbarrow by Oscar Dominguez, 1937
Oscar Dominguez, Piano, 1933                                         Oscar Dominguez, La mante religieuse, 1938
Femmes aux boîtes de sardines,1949                                                            Oscar Dominguez, Mujer, 1941
Oscar Dominguez, Revolución, 1947                                               Oscar Dominguez, El gato y el canario (Las damas de Rathbone Place), 1947 
Oscar Dominguez, El Caballo de Troya, 1945                                        Oscar Dominguez, Composition, 1945
Oscar Dominguez, Corrida II, 1951                                            Óscar Domínguez, Le chat, 1957
Oscar Dominguez, Tauromaquia, 1951
Óscar Domínguez, Rapto de Europa, 1952                                   Oscar Dominguez, Fecundidad, 1947
Oscar Dominguez, Libertad, 1957


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