Helios Gomez is born in Seville
Helios Gomez is born in SevilleMay 27, 1905Helios Gómez was born in Seville (Spain) on 27th May 1905. Coming from an immigrant family from rural Spain, he enters very young to work in the ceramic factories of Triana, a popular neighbourhood of the Andalusian capital. He is too young to know yet, but revolution and art would be always come united in his life. As the art historian Jean Cassou wrote of him in the prologue to Viva Octubre (Long live October): “he is a revolutionary, because he is an artist, and he is an artist because he is revolutionary (…). For him, painting, life and struggle are the same thing”.
Art and Anarchism
Art and AnarchismSeptember 1, 1923
General Miguel Primo de Rivera is bring to power by the coup d’état of September 1923. He will rule as a dictator of Spain from September 1923 to January 1930. By this time, Gómez enters to participate in the anarchist union Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, CNT (National Confederation of Labor).
He alternates his artistic work with jobs as a jornalero (peasant worker) for a living. This year, he publishes his first artistic collaboration as press illustrator (Felipe Alaiz: Oro molido “Ground gold”). Very soon, he gets his first artistic exhibitions in Seville (Kursaal Cabaret, 1925), Madrid (Ateneo, 1926), Barcelona (Dalmau Gallery, 1927) and Paris (Saint Michel and Montmartre galleries, 1927).
Living AbroadMay 4, 1929
After a forced emigration in 1927 because of his anarcho-syndicalist militancy, Gómez lives for a while in France and Belgium. In 1929 he is in Berlin working as illustrator for the Berliner Tageblatt. This year, he also becomes engage with the Rote Hilfe Deutschlands, the German branch of the internationalist social service International Red Aid.
Turning to communism
Turning to communismFebruary 25, 1930
In 1930 Gómez has his first folder of drawings published in Berlin by the International Workers Association: Días de ira (Days of Wrath). But, by this time, he is back in Spain. Once settled in Barcelona, he collaborates in newspapers such as La Rambla de Cataluña, L’Opinió and magazines like Mundo Obrero (Spain) or La Protesta (Argentina) and Monde (France).
He also reaches a position of political representation in the anarchist union CNT, becoming delegate of the graphic arts section of Barcelona. Very soon he abandons anarcho-syndicalism though. In a book entitled Por qué me marcho del anarquismo (Why I leave anarchism, he announces this political conversion. Accordingly, he enters the Federación Comunista Catalano-Balear (Catalan-Balearic communist federation) and joins the Communist Party of Spain after the proclamation of the Spanish Second Republic.
Helios Gomez in Moscow
Helios Gomez in MoscowAugust 26, 1932
In autumn 1932, he travels to Moscow (Russia) invited by the VOKS (Vsesoiuznoe Obshchestvo Kul’turnoi Sviazi s zagranitsei = All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries). Gómez works are exhibited at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, while he finishes in Leningrad his second notebook of drawings entitled Revolución española (Spanish Revolution), to be published in Moscow, Ogis-Isogis, 1933. In 1934, he would write several pro-Soviet articles about this experience in the USSR for the La Rambla and L’Opinió.
Gomez returns to Barcelona
Gomez returns to BarcelonaFebruary 26, 1934
In 1934, during his way from USSR to Barcelona, he visits the places in Vienna where in February was fought the so called “Austrian Civil War”, a failed workers’ uprising against the threat posed by the Dollfuss’ government’s shift towards Fascism. Once in Catalonia, he associates with a collective of graphic artists called Els Sis (The Six) and decides to participate in the workers revolution of October 1934 in Asturias.
Fighting for the Republic
Fighting for the RepublicFebruary 26, 1936
Early in 1936, Gómez returns again to Spain. When the Spanish Civil War breaks out, he firstly joins the militias and fight in support of the Republic. But, from 1938 onwards, withdrawal from the war front enables Gómez to pay more attention to his artistic work, although his commitment to the defence of the Republic do not diminish. He is appointed “cultural commissar” of the 26th Division (the former Durruti Column). In Barcelona, he organizes an exhibition in memory of the anarchist leader Buenaventura Durruti, the founder of the legendary anarchist military unit.
Imprison-ment and clandestine resistance
Imprison-ment and clandestine resistanceFebruary 26, 1939
The Spanish Civil War ends with the Francoists defeat of the Second Republic. Cornered by the occupation of Catalonia by the Francoist army, Gómez flees to France with his Division, but he only gets to be imprisoned by the French government.
Between 1939 and 1941, he would be transferred from one camp to another, and finally imprisoned in Djelfa (Algeria). In 1941, he would request to be repatriated to Spain because of the abuses suffered in this latter confinement. Once in Francoist Spain, Gómez involves himself in the foundation of some clandestine resistance organizations.
Imprisoned at the Barcelona Model Jail
Imprisoned at the Barcelona Model JailFebruary 26, 1948
In October 1948, he is imprisoned at the Barcelona Model Jail, after having rejected the Francoist offer to collaborate with the Regime. He has been arrested several times before, but this time, in 1948, he enters in prison leaving behind his son Gabriel, born in 1943 from his union with Mercedes Planas.
During his time imprisoned, he paints the ceilings of a cell. This work, known as the Capilla Gitana (Gypsy Chapel), was commissioned by the prison chaplains. This period of captivity between 1948 and 1954 coincides with a powerful rediscovery of his Romani roots.
Gomez diesSeptember 6, 1956
In September 1956, Gómez dies from liver disease.
Since his release in 1954, he has lived in the residence of students of San Jaime de Barcelona, run by former jailmates who allowed him to live there for free in exchange for the mural decoration of the place.
Click the timeline to explore the life of Helios Gomez
Helios Gómez images: © Associació Cultural Helios Gómez, 2020
Texts and images selection: © Begoña Barrera, 2020