Born in Spain, Ismael González de la Serna studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Granada, Spain. Whilst at school González befriended the famous poet Federico Garcia Lorca, whose first book, Impresiones y Paisajes was illustrated by González. This friendship proved to be crucial in navigating the direction of his work. Through Lorca the artist became closely associated with the authors of Generation’ 27, a literary circle interested in experience and working with avant-garde forms of art and poetry.
After visiting the French Impressionists exhibition in Madrid in 1917, González became more focused on developing a ‘free’ artistic style. This exhibition founded his notions of colour and line, and remained a consistent narrative throughout his oeuvre. In 1921 he moved to Paris, rarely returning to Spain. In Paris he was a member of the avant-garde group, Spanish School of Paris. During this period he was influenced by the Cubist artists George Braque and fellow Spaniard, Pablo Picasso.
González exhibited widely in the 1920s with much success. Paul Guillaume, a renowned Parisian art dealer of Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, organised for an exhibition of fifty of his works. This lead to him exhibiting in the Musée du Jeu de Paume, Paris in 1936, the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exhibition in 1937, later an individual exhibition at the Gallery Flechtheim in Berlin, which was sold out. In his later years the was a retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts in Mexico in 1956, which was soon followed by another retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London in 1963.
In 1964 he became wheel chair bound after a long battle with cerebral palsy. From this point on, he very rarely ventured out of his home. After his death, the Museum of Modern Art in Paris held a retrospective exhibition in homage to this great artist.