Jesús Carles de Vilallonga
Jesús Carles de Vilallonga in 2009
|Died||August 5, 2018 (aged 91)|
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
|Nationality||Spanish & Canadian|
|Known for||Painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics|
|Movement||Poetic Realism, Expressionism, Symbolism|
Jesús Carles de Vilallonga i Rosell (1927, Santa Coloma de Farners, Spain - 2018, Barcelona, Spain) was a Spanish/Canadian figurative artist who worked primarily in the medium of egg tempera. He is best known for his richly textured paintings in an intricate, highly colored style that is not easy even though everything is readily intelligible: male and females characters, beasts, forests, architectural structures and artifacts. Vilallonga's iconography draws from a broad and complex painting tradition ranging from Romanesque art, the Renaissance, and Surrealism, while maintaining his own contemporary style.. His work is sometimes related to Symbolism and his production is always enhanced by the contributions of abstraction. He works with the "inner eye" which Freud described as the most profound and the most intelligent, in a sojourn through nature and man's hidden interior.
Vilallonga exhibited widely in Europe, Canada, and the United States and his oeuvre includes bronze and resin sculpture, watercolor paintings, design objects, and different print mediums including screen print, etching, lithography, and digital art. He was awarded the National Order of Québec in 2011  and Fill Predilecte in Santa Coloma de Farners, Spain in 2015.
The fourth child of Salvador de Vilallonga i Corominas and Maria Dolors Rosell i Planes de Farners, Jesús Carles Isidre de Vilallonga i Rosell was born on March 10, 1927. His father was a wealthy landowner whose family documents, now deposited in the Arxiu Comarcal de la Selva, date back to the 13th century. His parents were patrons of the arts and often had artists vacation at their summer home, the 15th-century family estate Mas Parés located in the village of Sant Martí Sapresa. At the age of five, Vilallonga made his first drawings there alongside the Catalan impressionist painter Joaquim Mir.
The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) shattered the family's bucolic lifestyle. When Vilallonga was eleven years old, his father, Salvador de Vilallonga, who had been in hiding during much of the war, first in a secret part of the house, then later in artist's studio in Barcelona, was killed when he tried to cross over to France through the Pyrenees. Maria Dolors, with her eight children, left Santa Coloma de Farners and relocated to an apartment in Girona.
In 1948, Vilallonga moved to Barcelona where he studied drawing along with Joan Ponç at Ramón Rogent's studio and took architecture classes at the University of Barcelona. Convinced that he wanted to dedicate his life to being an artist, he continued to exhibit and win prizes for his watercolor paintings, painted frescos in two different chapels, designed murals and mosaics for a large hotel on the Mediterranean coast, and studied painting with Marcel Gromaire at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He traveled throughout Europe, stopping in Rome to visit his friend the painter Jaume Muxart, and finally ended up in Copenhagen, selling his recently painted watercolors in the squares of major cities along the way to pay his expenses.
In 1954, he accepted a mural commission in Montréal and that move proved decisive to his art career. To cover his expenses, he had the ingenious idea of painting watercolors of the wealthy homes in Westmount and selling the paintings to their owners. He sang and played the guitar in clubs, designed the costumes and set designs for a ballet at the National Ballet of Canada, and briefly taught Spanish at the Université de Montréal.
In 1958, Vilallonga signed an exclusive contract with Max Stern, owner of the prestigious Dominion Gallery in Montréal, who was responsible for introducing the contemporary European artists Henry Moore, Marino Marini, Van Dongen and Picabia in Canada . His early paintings were in oil in an expressionistic style, alongside his trademark egg tempera paintings on board. Vilallonga's contract with the gallery continued for thirty years until the death of Dr. Stern.
Vilallonga married Madeleine Kirouac, a Canadian widow with two young daughters in 1959 and they had two more daughters. The family divided their time between Cadaqués, Montréal, and Barcelona. In 1981, Vilallonga met Katherine Slusher, an American art historian in Barcelona, and they were married in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec in 1989. They resided in Barcelona until Vilallonga's death in 2018
Jesús Carles de Vilallonga's paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings are the subject of numerous books and documentaries and are in museums, universities, and private collections throughout the world. His extensive body of work has been exhibited in individual exhibitions at the Lefevre Gallery in London, Sagittarius Gallery in New York, Galería Juana Mordó in Madrid, Art Contemporain in Paris, Dau al Set in Barcelona, and multiple galleries in Canada. Retrospectives of his work were held at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in California in 2000 , the Parisian Laundry in Montréal in 2006 , and the Museu Casa de la Paraula in Spain in 2015 . The Université de Montréal and Concordia University  house large public works by Vilallonga.