Joaquim Vicens Gironella


Born 1911 in Aqullana – SPAIN. Died 1997 in Toullouse – FRANCE.

Joaquim Vicens Gironella was born in Catalonia, near the French border. As most of his family worked as cork makers, he was initiated to the same craft. Already during his adolescence he wrote articles and poems celebrating the qualities of cork oak for local press. He also wrote dramas and novels. In 1936 he became involved in the Spanish army. Anti-fascist and Republican, he directed a weekly journal entitled Military Unity. 
The victory of Franco supporters meant that he had to leave the country. On 5 February 1939 he escaped to France. He was interned in the camp of Bram, in Aude. After his liberation Gironella moved to Toulouse where he worked in a factory. He married Paz Santiago, refugee like him. 
Around 1941 Gironella discovered a new hobby : he began sculpting clay, but very soon he went back to his favourite material, cork. The director of the factory, René Lajus, became interested in Gironella’s carvings and asked him to lend him several sculptures for his office in Paris. In 1948, Jean Dubuffet, who was at the time still a wine merchant, visited Lajus’ office for a command of corks. He fell in love with Gironella’s work and decided to organize an exhibition of his carvings at the Foyer de l’Art Brut. Progressively, Gironella transformed his technique, creating in particular mural panels, inspired by themes linked to his native Catalonia, Muslim art, but also medieval representations. In 1990 Gironella published a book dedicated to the celebration of cork, Exaltatió del suro, containing his poems in Catalan and illustrations. The publication is made entirely out of cork. 

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