'L'Eixerit i Valent Sastret', picture story for Virolet #173, 1925.

Joan Vila i Pujol, AKA Joan D'Ivori, was a Catalan artist who worked in several artistic fields; he was as illustrator, scenographer and painter, as well as a publisher and bibliophile. He was an important artist for the early 20th century Catalan children's literature, and a famous documentary illustrator for historical and linguistic publications about Catalonia and the Catalan language.

Early life and career
Joan Vila i Pujol was born in Barcelona in 1890 as the son of the illustrator and stained glass artist Joan Vila i Valls. From a young age, Joan Vila was trained at the Borrell Academy and at the Sant Lluc Art Circle, where one of his teachers was the Catalan painter Josep Triadó.

Vila started his working life making stained glass works with his father. In September 1909 and March 1910, the prestigious weekly Papitu - founded by Apa - printed two of his drawings, which he signed with "Iras". He later turned to using the pen name D'Ivori, as a reference to his very pale skin. Through his connection with the bibliophile Ramon Miquel i Planas, Vila made cover designs and illustrations for the popular Catalan fable collection 'Les Rondalles Populars Catalanes' (1909), as well as the literary children's weekly La Rondalla del Dijous.

Cover illustration for the fable collection 'Les Rondalles Populars Catalanes' (1909).

Traveling artist
In July 1909, several violent confrontations took place in Barcelona between the Spanish army and Catalan workers. As a sympathizer of the Catalanist movement and of the Catalan Solidarity party, Joan Vila avoided his draft in the Spanish military by moving to Buenos Aires, Argentina. There, he collaborated with the political satirical weekly Caras y Caretas. In 1912, he returned to Europe, first serving in Paris, France as a correspondent-illustrator for the Buenos Aires magazine La Semana Universal. Vila then went to London, where he perfected his drawing style by studying the work of English cartoonists. He was back in France, when the outbreak of World War I forced him to return home.

Magazine work and the children's press
Back in Barcelona, D'Ivori's clean and classical drawings appeared in a variety of Catalan periodicals, including the cultural magazines Bella Terra and Catalunya Teatral, the satirical humor magazines "El Sr. Daixonses i la Sra. Dallonses" and El Borinot and the general interest magazine D'Ací i D'Allà. As a contributor to En Patufet, Virolet, La Mainada, Plançons and Jordi, he was particularly an important artist for the early Catalan children's press - a new instrument for education in the Catalan language. He additionally collaborated with the publishing houses Muntañola and Salvatella, making illustrations and ornamental designs for textbooks.

'Els Tres Pèls d'Or del Diable', picture story for El Virolet #36 (9 September 1922).

Documentary illustrator
D'Ivori's artwork was classically oriented, with connections to the anti-modernist Noucentis movement that was popular in Catalonia during early 20th century. He gained great fame as a documentary illustrator, working on many historical, linguistic and bibliophile book publications. For the Salvat publishing house, he illustrated the 20-volume 'Enciclopèdia d'Iniciació Cultural Universitas' and the capitulars of the Catalan dictionary 'Pal·las'. He participated in the two volumes of the 'Historia Popular de Catalunya' ("Popular History of Catalonia", 1919) by Alfons Roure, and in bibliophile works such as 'La Librería', 'Un Librop Viejo', 'La Llegenda del Llibreté Assassí' and 'Contes de Bibliòfil'. Later in life, Joan Vila i Pujol founded the publishing house Mons Floris, dedicated to the artisanal production of books in limited editions. One of D'Ivori's most important works was the "Arbre dels Gremis" - a tree with all Catalan medieval guilds - that is now in the collection of the Museum of the History of Barcelona.

Other activities
In addition to his publishing work, Joan Vila was also a costume and set designer for Madrid theatrical plays by Catalina Bárcena and Gregorio Martínez Sierra, and a creator of figurines for various Barcelona ballets by Joan Magriñà. He also built a puppet theater for one of the ships of the Transatlantic Company of Spain.

Death and legacy
Due to the Spanish Civil War and its political and cultural consequences, the work of Joan D'Ivori largely faded into obscurity. The artist passed away in Barcelona in 1947, at the age of either 56 or 57. His children also worked in creative occupations. Jordi Vila Rufas (1924-2011) was a notable religious painter and designer of altarpieces, murals and stained glass windows. Francesc Vila Rufas (1927-2006) was the popular cartoonist and humorist Cesc.

D'Ivori at Humoristan.org

Series and books by Joan D'Ivori in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.