Key dates

Rafel Tona in his Algiers studio - 1959 - by Jean Ruyer

1903: Rafel Tona was born on June, 24th in Barcelona. His father is a lawyer and Catalonian federalist politician.

1917: He attends the School of Art in Barcelona, where he studies drawing, painting and particularly sculpture. He graduates in 1924 with a gold medal.

1919: He takes part in his first exhibition with the group of Els Evolusionistes.

1920-1924: During his studies, he works in the studio of the sculptor Josep Llimona and draws for Barcelona’s satirical newspapers Papitu and D’aci d’allà. He learns photography in Rafel Areñas Tona’s studio. In 1921, he starts with other Barcelonese young artists l’Agrupacio Noucentista with an annual exhibition at Dalmau gallery. His mentor, the sculptor Pau Gargallo, encourages him to complete his training in Paris. In 1924, he travels to France, first in Toulouse, and then in Paris where he follows painting classes at Académie Charpentier and Académie Scandinave. He earns his living producing advertising posters for les Grands Magasins du Louvre among others.

1925-1928: Rafel Tona and his friend, the Catalan painter Alfred Figueras, move to Algiers from where they travel all over Maghreb. In 1927, they establish in Algiers an academy named Arts where painting, sculpture and drawing are taught. It becomes rapidly an important training and exchange place for all the Algerian artists.

1928-1932: Back to Paris, Rafel Tona splits his time between his own painting, designing fabrics and working on the movie sets in Joinville-le-Pont studios. He helps create the sets for Pagnol and Korda’s Marius (1931) and Pabst’s L’Opéra de quat’sous (French version 1931).

1932-1939: After the death of his mother in 1932, Rafel Tona returns to Barcelona where he opens an advertising agency. In 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, he joins the PSUC (Catalan Unified Socialist Party) and the SDP (Drawers union). He is also actively contributing to the Catalonian Republican movement by drawing many propaganda posters and political comics in the satirical newspaper La Esquella de Torratxa.

1939-1940: As a refugee from the Spanish Civil War, Rafel Tona returns first to France and then to Algeria when the Nazi troops invade France.

1940-1944: In Algiers, Rafel Tona is dedicated to the Resistance. He participates in the organisation of the Allied landings in 1942. Encouraged by Gaston Palewsky (de Gaulle’s chief of staff), he creates in 1943 with the painter Louis Bernasconi, the Salons de la Résistance in North Africa to raise money for the movement. He contributes to the newspaper Combat (Algiers edition) and the Allied propaganda (with posters and flyers). At the request of René Capitant (National Education Commissioner), he sets up the itinerant exhibition Kollaboration (1944). At this time, Rafel Tona also establishes strong friendships with Jean Amrouche, Jean Brune, Albert Camus, Max-Pol Fouchet, and René-Jean Clot. During all this time, he also continues to paint and to exhibit in North Africa.

1946-1947: His exhibition in the Champion-Cordier gallery in Paris in 1946 is sponsored by Albert Marquet who also hosts him in his studio in La Frette-sur-Seine.

1948-1960: Back in Algiers, his work is featured in various exhibitions and art shows. He continues working as an illustrator for the Journal d’Alger and other Algerian magazines. In 1956, he returns to Spain after 17 years of political exile. He travels to Portugal, France and Holland, new sources of inspiration. He receives in Algiers the Prix de la Critique in 1950 and the Prix du Salon de La France d’Outre-Mer in 1952. During this time, the Art Museum of Algiers buys several of his paintings.

1960-1987: In 1960, Rafel Tona returns definitely to Paris where he continues to make a living from his painting and sculpture. He organizes many exhibitions of his work both in France and abroad. In search of new themes, he visits Spain, Italy, Greece, but New Caledonia will be in 1970 his new land of inspiration. Several of his paintings are acquired by the Art Museum of Toulouse in 1965 and the National Fund for Contemporary Art in 1980. He dies in Paris on 12th February, 1987.

Churchill poster - Allied propaganda (90x60) Algiers 1943
Churchill poster - Allied propaganda (90x60 cm)
Algiers 1943
PSUC propaganda poster (100x70) Barcelona 1936
PSUC propaganda poster (100x70 cm)
Barcelona 1936
Patinated plaster (40 cm) 1980
Patinated plaster (40 cm)
Fabric design-circa (15x15 cm) 1930
Fabric design (15x15 cm)
Circa 1930
On the left, Rafel Tona and Albert Marquet at the exhibition opening - Galerie Champion Cordier - Paris 1946
On the right, Rafel Tona and Albert Marquet at the exhibition opening- Galerie Champion Cordier
Paris 1946

Major exhibitions

1940: Galerie Pompadour - Algiers
1943: Galerie 42 - Tunis
1943: Salle Pierre Bordes - Algiers – Exposition des œuvres offertes par les artistes peintres et sculpteurs algériens à la souscription nationale pour la Résistance (Group exhibition)
1944: Galerie Paul Colin – Algiers
1944: Galerie Colline-Robert Martin - Oran
1946: Galerie Champion-Cordier - Paris
1947: Galerie Française - Casablanca
1948: Galerie Paul Colin - Algiers
1950: Galerie Robert Martin - Oran
1951: Galerie du Livre - Casablanca
1952: Galerie du Nombre d’Or - Algiers
1955: Galerie du Nombre d’Or - Algiers
1956: Galerie du Nombre d’Or - Algiers
1957: Galerie Comte-Tinchant (Edmond Charlot) - Algiers
1959: Galerie Comte-Tinchant (Edmond Charlot) - Algiers
1961: Galerie 106 - Algiers
1962: Galerie Gérard Mourgue - Paris
1962: Galerie de l’Hôtel de la Poste - Pont-Aven
1963: Galerie Gérard Mourgue - Paris
1964: Galerie Chedel - Geneva (Group exhibition)
1964: Galerie Sonnegh - Zürich
1964: Galerie Marc Polony - Paris
1965: Galerie Maurice Oeuillet - Toulouse
1966: Galerie Gérard Mourgue - Paris
1968: Galerie l’Indifférent - Lyon
1968: Sala Rovira - Barcelona
1969: Galerie Sainte Croix - Tours
1969: Galerie du Centre - La Baule
1970: Musée Néo-Calédonien - Nouméa
1971: Cohen Gallery - New York (Group exhibition)
1971: Galerie Vauban - Dijon
1972: Musée Néo-Calédonien - Nouméa
1974: Sala Rovira - Barcelona
1976: Galerie des Amis des Arts - Aix-en-Provence
1976: Salas de Arte y Cultura - Caja General de Ahorros de Tenerife - Canarias
1977: Galerie André Weil - Paris
1978: Galerie des Maîtres Contemporains - Aix-en-Provence
1980: Sala Rovira - Barcelona
1981: Sala Agora 3 - Sitges (Spain)
1982: Chapelle de la Salpêtrière - Paris (Group exhibition)
1985: Galerie de l’Orangerie - Neuchâtel (Switzerland)
1996: Galerie Australe - Nouméa
2003: Musée des Beaux - Arts de Bordeaux (Group exhibition featuring l’École d’Alger collection from the Musée National des Beaux-Arts d’Alger)
2006: Musée d’art et d’histoire de Narbonne - France (Permanent collection)
2015: Musée de l’Armée-Hôtel des Invalides - Paris - Churchill-De Gaulle exhibition
2015: Musée Vulliod-Saint-Germain - Pézenas (France) - Centenary of Edmond Charlot (Group exhibition)
2016 : Espace Sainte Avoye-La Clayette (France)
2017 : Salle de La Tribune - Ailhon (France)
2019 : Salle de La Tribune - Ailhon (France)


Elisabeth Cazenave
Les artistes de l'Algérie
Éditions Bernard Giovanangeli, 2001

Michel Lefebvre-Peña
Guerra Grafica-Espagne 1936-1939
Éditions La Martinière, 2013

Jaume Miratvitlles, Josep Termes et Carles Fontserè
Carteles de la Republica y de la Guerra Civil

Édicions La Gaya Ciencia, 1978

Edmon Vallès
Historia grafica de la Catalunya autonoma
La Guerra (1936-1939)

Édicions 62, 1978

Marion Vidal-Bué
Alger et ses peintres
Éditions Paris-Méditerranée, 2000