The Spanish Language Blog

A keen user of the painting technique decalcomania Oscar Dominguez was a surrealist painter in the early 20th Century. Heavily influenced by Pablo Picasso and Yves Tanguy, Domínguez died at the age of 51 in 1957, and despite his relatively short career, he enjoyed much success with several of his paintings selling for thousands of dollars.


  • Before moving to Paris in 1927 at the age of 21, Oscar Dominguez was brought up by his grandmother in the town of Tacaronte in Tenerife
  • This Spanish painter, although having a relatively short painting career, became renowned for painting surrealist and avant-garde pictures


Oscar Dominguez spent his early years in Tenerife with his grandmother, having been born in the city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna that also sits on the island. Dominguez became interested in painting from a young age as an outlet to the severe illness he had that slowed his growth and provoked a gradual deformation of his limbs and face. Following his move to Paris when he was 21, Dominguez spent time working in the Les Halles market in the centre of the city, and passed much time in cabaret bars. His interest in art increased while in Paris, as he was to be found on many occasions in museums and galleries, as well as occasional attendance at various art schools.


Towards the end of his twenties Dominguez spent time developing his Surrealist preferences. He became close with artists such as Man Ray, Yves Tanguy and André Breton who were leaders in Surrealism at the time, who also introduced Oscar Dominguez to the Parisian avant-garde scene. He began making more prominent artwork and had his first solo exhibition in 1933 at the Fine Arts Circle (Círculo de Bellas Artes) of Tenerife.


The 1930s were an incredibly important period for Surrealism, and this is when Dominguez really made a name for himself. He adopted the technique of decalcomania when thick oil paint – known as gouache – is spread on paper or, on occasion, glass and other materials, before being pressed onto a canvas, for example. This technique was especially popular in Russia at the time, and Dominguez successful created several paintings using this unusual method. During this period as well Dominguez became internationally famous, with exhibitions in Tokyo, London and Paris.


During the 1940s, and following the Nazi invasion of Paris, Dominguez moved to Marseille, when he worked underground with several other surrealists. He spent time with Pablo Picasso between 1944 and 1948, who influenced Dominguez’ work hugely; indeed, much of Doninguez’ early work also contained influences from Picasso, while his bohemian lifestyle could be seen to be modeled on Picasso as well. After World War II, Dominguez saw his work travel to New York, Milan and Prague, and he had a career highlight when he was asked to paint the set for Jean Paul Sartre’s play “The Flies”.


Oscar Dominguez’ career, took a downturn in the 1950s, alternating between successes when his work was sent abroad for exhibitions, to nervous, psychotic outbursts. His deformity that he had been suffering since childhood was becoming too much for Dominguez to cope with, and that – along with other factors – led him to suicide in December 1957. Tauromaquia (1951) and Composición con Fondo Azul (1949) are some of his most famous paintings. Dominguez indeed has a legacy thanks to these paintings, and there was a film made in 2008 called Óscar: Una pasión surrealista (Oscar: The Colour of Destiny), directed by Lucas Fernández commemorating his life and the Surrealist movement in France. 

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