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Masterful and beautiful: David Jones

02/03/2012

The lettering of David Jones has featured once before in this blog (see here), but is of such individuality and beauty it is a shame not to show more. Those who follow Gill (or like his stuff) will know that Jones was part of that ‘set’, being once engaged to one of Gill’s daughters. (He died a bachelor.)

The illustration shown here is from about 1948 (the text reads Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will: Jones was Catholic), so dating from what Nicolete Gray in The Painted Inscriptions of David Jones [Gordon Fraser, London: 1981], describes as a period when his work started to take on a painterly style.

This piece (40.5cm by 33cm) is done in pencil, DEO in red, other letters in yellow crayon under the pencil. The background is black and yellow wax crayon on a green-gray watercolour wash. Gray notes that the open R in the first line is the first example of its use in Jones’s work.

On a personal note, David Jones is buried in Brockley cemetery, London SE4, very near where I lived, since Jones spent the last years of his life (he died in 1974) living nearby. I visited the site a few times and once assisted John Skelton when he was asked to ‘renovate’ the grave.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jesse permalink
    04/03/2012 3:36 pm

    Oddly enough, I spent some time just this afternoon with The Painted Inscriptions at an antiquarian bookshop in my neighborhood. Gill’s influence is obvious but Jones definitely had his own distinctive sense of layout. I can only imagine the thrill of receiving one of his inscriptions in the mail around the holidays. A fascinating man, someone I hope to study more closely, Gill association or not. I wonder what sort of connections, if any, have been made between Jones’s lettering style and that of Ben Shahn. Both have a sort of unleashed quality about them, like a blast of elegant dissonance from an alphabetic saxophone.

    • john pitt permalink*
      04/03/2012 5:49 pm

      Love the …”elegant dissonance from an alphabetic saxophone”. Can you put that into calligraphic form please…

    • 09/07/2012 10:37 am

      His letters never make me think of Gill – quite possibly because i’m just the sort of dilettante who never read much & associates Gill with type, . (shameless, yes)

      Otoh, in my heart, mind, & especially hand, he is always hanging with Shahn – happier than ever in life, his relatively prim grace (relative mind you) delighted by Shahn’s genuine exuberance. I had loved Shahn for a long long time before I discovered Jones – it was like a personal mystery solved : whether Shahn actually saw Jones dint matter to my frustrated hand – here was the integrity in the bone.

      I went looking & found Nicolette’s books, and was breathless with joy, but never really worked with any older bones than David’s.

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