Jonah Jones: An Artist's Life

Peter Jones
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
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"...Peter writes with captivating erudition." - Planet

Sculptor, painter, letter cutter, stained glass artist, novelist, academic and administrator; Jonah Jones (1919-2004) was a twentieth century renaissance man.
Born near Newcastle into a family of miners he became a librarian before reluctantly volunteering for a non-combatant role in the Medical Corps during he second world war. He saw action in North-West Europe but also met a number of artists and craftsmen in the RAMC who fired his own passion to become an artist. After the war, now married and having survived a severe case of TB he fulfilled his dream of settling in Wales and began his 'on the job' education as a sculptor and letter cutter. Much of his early work was at Clough Williams-Ellis's Portmeirion villages. The two became close friends and Jones widened his circle to include Richard Hughes, Bertrand Russell, John Cowper Powys and Huw Wheldon.

In a varied career Jonah Jones produced intimate sculptures, monumental installations, and beautiful inscriptions, in addition to writing novels published by leading London houses, a biography of Clough Williams-Ellis and a much praised survey of the lakes of North Wales.

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Review from Planet

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Although ostensibly a biography of an artist, this book encompasses reflections on 20th century social, political and economic history; war; religion; family life, love; the human condition; literature; arts administration (across the whole spectrum of the visual arts and crafts) - and above all, Wales. Jones's story is a compelling one, and his son Peter writes with captivating erudition.

Jonah Jones's extraordinary diverse life as an artist and arts' ambassador meant he befriended many people, including Jan Morris, who wrote the Foreword. She sums up Jones as a 'haunting' and 'gentle' man who believed 'in unity of art, its life-enhancing power' and this transformative quality defines Jonah Jones and his life as an artist.

Anne Price-Owen, Planet 207 August

06/08/2012 - 15:12
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Review from Wynn Wheldon

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Jonah Jones might with characteristic modesty have described himself as a jack of all trades, but he was in fact a master of all those he plied, which included administrator, sculptor and novelist - not forgetting poet, memoirist, essayist, mason, watercolour painter, letter-carver, educationalist, chairman, bread-maker, walker, dog-owner, lake-lover, soldier, pacifist, Catholic, Quaker, father and husband. This book, by his son Peter is exemplary in its handling of all these facets of a complicated (and hence fascinating) character. He remains faultlessly objective while at the same time somehow rendering fully the love and respect and tenderness he felt for his father. It is a very good book about a very good man. I had thought to say that 'An Artist's Life', the subtitle, was somehow reductive, but actually, if we think of David Jones - the artist Jonah possibly most revered - and his emphasis on art as a sacrament - in short if we make art what it once was, indissolubly central to how a life is to be lived - then the subtitle becomes not merely descriptive but an act of filial duty. Jonah, for all his emphasis on craft and the need to bring art to the people was, above all, an Artist, and decidedly, as this book emphatically shows, "not negligible".

10/02/2012 - 14:55