Tuesday, 10 January 2012
JONAH JONES: An Artist's Life by Peter Jones
Jonah Jones, who was friend of my mother and father (and me), 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 adminstrator, 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 (a figure I remember from my childhood as a young man of dark complexion, an ever-ready smile and endless enthusiasm) 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".