GONZALEZ, XAVIER (1898–1993). Xavier Gonzalez, painter and sculptor, was born on February 15, 1898, in Almería, Spain, the son of Emilio González Díaz de Paredes and Gracia Arpa Perea. When he was eight, his family moved to Seville, and subsequently to Puebla, Mexico, where he studied art at the San Carlos Academy. The elder Gonzalez was an agricultural expert who traveled widely throughout Latin America teaching improved agricultural methods; Xavier left school at thirteen to accompany his father on these journeys. During his late teens and early twenties Xavier taught for a time in the public schools in Mexico City and studied mechanical engineering, working briefly for a mining company. In 1922 he moved to the United States and took a job as a draftsman at a railroad in Iowa. Later he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, supporting himself by designing display signs at the Carson Pirie Scott department store and working at other odd jobs. After completing his studies in 1925, Gonzalez moved to San Antonio, where he taught in the school of his uncle José Arpa and at the Witte Museum. Though he left San Antonio in 1931 after being invited to teach at the Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans, Gonzalez continued to maintain a relationship with the Witte, where he had solo exhibitions in 1928, 1947, 1955, and 1968. In 1951 he was a guest instructor at the San Antonio Art Institute. He also taught at the Sul Ross State Teacher's College in Alpine in the late 1930s.
Known for his unusual versatility, Gonzalez made paintings and sculptures in a variety of styles, both figurative and abstract. But he was perhaps best known as a muralist, a technique he evidently acquired during his years in Mexico. Among his most notable Texas works were his murals for the Municipal Auditorium in San Antonio in 1933. Gonzalez painted the murals for the Civil Work Administration, assisted by Rudolf Staffel and John Griffith. The paintings, however, which included an upraised fist and a palm with a bleeding wounds, drew numerous complaints from the public for, as one critic put it, their "insignia and symbols of an insidious nature." In 1935, bowing to pressure, Mayor Charles K. Quin ordered the murals removed and returned to the federal government. During World War II Gonzalez made a series of posters for the Department of the Navy and also worked as a cartographer. In the mid-1940s he moved to New York, where he lived most of the rest of his life. In his later years Gonzalez opened a summer art school in Wellfleet on Cape Cod, and taught for several years at the Art Students League in New York, as well as at the Brooklyn Museum. His work is in the collections of many museums, including the Witte Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In 1935, during his tenure at Newcomb College in New Orleans, he married one of his students, Ethel Edwards, who became a distinguished artist in her own right. Gonzalez died of leukemia in the Bronx on January 9, 1993.
New York Times, January 15, 1993. Cecilia Steinfeldt, Art for History's Sake: The Texas Collection of the Witte Museum (Austin: Texas State Historical Association for the Witte Museum of the San Antonio Museum Association, 1993).