Óscar Domínguez Palazón was born on 3 January 1906 in San Cristóbal de La Laguna on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain. When Domínguez was two years old, his mother died from a puerperal fever, after which he spent summers with his grandmother in Tacoronte. Domínguez studied at the Instituto de La Laguna, but from a young age showed an interest in painting.
In 1927, Domínguez travelled to Paris, sent by his father to work for his fruit export business in the central market of Les Halles. In 1931, Domínguez’ father died and he subsequently began to work as an illustrator for an advertising agency in order to support himself. Having flit between Paris and Tenerife since 1927, Domínguez settled permanently in Paris in 1932, where he met André Breton. Domínguez joined the Surrealist movement officially in 1934, swiftly gaining the nickname 'the dragon tree of the Canaries' with Breton describing him as 'the fiery and fragrant whistle of the Canary Islands'. As a Surrealist, Domínguez pioneered the automatist technique of decalcomania, the application of paint by spreading upon one substrate and then pressing it upon another surface, as well as creating compositions influenced by Dalí’s ‘veristic’ style, Yves Tanguy’s biomorphic landscapes and Roberto Matta’s cosmic ‘morphologies’.
In 1935, Domínguez exhibited in several Surrealist group shows including in Copenhagen and Paris, whilst also organising the Exposición surrealista in his native Tenerife. Domínguez remained an official Surrealist until 1940, exhibiting at major Surrealist exhibitions such as the Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in the winter of 1936, and the Exposition internationale du surréalisme at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 1938. Fleeing to the South of France during the initial outbreak of the war, Domínguez returned to Paris in 1941, developing a close relationship with Pablo Picasso and Man Ray, whilst his work began to re-incorporate figurative elements. Between 1941 and 1944, he worked as an illustrator for the publication La Main à plume with Paul Éluard, René Magritte and Picasso. After the Second World War, Domínguez distanced himself from the Surrealist movement, though he remained close with many of the leading protagonists. Domínguez died on 31 December 1957, committing suicide. Max Ernst, Dora Maar and Man Ray were amongst the attendees at his funeral.
Domínguez’ work can be found in major international collections, including: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Art Institute of Chicago; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique, Brussels.
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