Artist biography

English painter, draughtsman, printmaker, illustrator and poet. His creative life was largely determined by two experiences. During World War I he served on the Western Front, an event that he regarded as epic and imbued with religious, moral and mythic overtones, in which Divine Grace manifested a continual presence. The second experience was his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1921. This immediately led him to join Eric Gill's community at Ditchling, Sussex.

At Ditchling, Jones was first taught carpentry and wood-engraving. His engravings were largely for publishers of de luxe illustrated books, and they reveal how he assimilated Gill's influence without imitating his style.

The watercolours and occasional oil paintings made by Jones can be divided into three main phases punctuated by his two breakdowns in 1932 and 1947. His early work shows the influence of the spare pseudo-medievalist style practised by Gill.

After his first breakdown, and especially after 1936, Jones began to echo the epic quality of his writing, weaving myth and history around modern commonplace motifs.

From the 1940s until the 1960s Jones also produced inscriptions, at once abstract in form and concrete in relaying biblical and other poetic texts in Latin, Greek, Welsh or English. From c. 1949 until the mid 1950s Jones made an apparent return to his earlier still-lifes in a series of majestic paintings of flowers held within glass chalices. These pictures of real things capture the universal in the particular and the breadth of history within the commonplace.

R. Ironside: David Jones (London, 1949)
D. Blamires: David Jones: Artist and Writer (Manchester, 1971)
R. Hague, ed.: Dai Greatcoat: A Self-portrait of David Jones in his Letters (London, 1980)
D. Cleverdon: The Engravings of David Jones (London, 1981)
N. Gray: The Painted Inscriptions of David Jones (London, 1981)
David Jones (exh. cat. by P. Hills, London, Tate, 1981)
N. Gray: The Paintings of David Jones (London, 1989)


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