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Nicolete Gray was the daughter of Laurence Binyon, poet and Keeper of Oriental Art at the British Museum. She studied medieval history and in 1932 began the life long research into lettering which led to her becoming a leading historian and teacher of this subject and herself a lettering artist. In 1936, she organised a contemporary art exhibition 'Abstract and Concrete'. This included work by Ben Nicholson, Hepworth and Moore, but also introduced to the British public the work of foreign abstract artists such as Calder, Gabo, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Miró and Mondrian. Nicolete Gray enjoyed a long and fruitful friendship with David Jones. She wrote a monograph on his inscriptions in 1981 and a book on his paintings in 1989. Large painted inscriptions were an important part of Jones's later work, beginning around 1943. The Latin texts that Jones has chosen here refer to Christmas. 'Exiit Edictum' comes from the account of Christ's birth in St Luke's Gospel, and the separate line of 'Iam Redit Apollo' comes from Virgil's Fourth Eclogue, which Christian writers believed prophesied Christ's birth. Nicolete Gray stated that this inscription is innovatory in two ways; firstly that Jones's preferred coloured background and wax crayon technique have been replaced by letters in different colours on white paper; and secondly Jones introduces here his practice of combining fragments from different texts, so as to give visual form to a complex of inter-related meaning.

September 2004