Jonah Jones and the love of Welsh words and carving at National Museum Cardiff

By Culture24 Reporter | 14 December 2012
a black and white photo of a man stone carving in his workshop
Jonah Jones at Work (1989)© Photo Robert Greetham. Estate of Jonah Jones

Exhibition Preview: Artist in Focus, Jonah Jones, National Museum Cardiff, Cardiff, until April 7 2012

While inscriptions cut in stone were at the heart of his practice, the work of sculptor Jonah Jones was enormously varied, ranging from monumental figures and large abstract reliefs to portrait busts and small carved figures.

During the 1960s, he also turned his hand to stained glass and mosaic murals. Throughout his life he worked in watercolour, turning in his last years to painted texts. But it was his love of words, and his own background as a novelist and writer, that cast the most powerful influence over his art.

a poster with welsh text above a drawing of a stone wall and shadow of a celtic style cross
Jonah Jones, Castell y Bere, screen print from the Welsh American portfolio, 1984. Poem by Bobbi Jones© Courtesy Amgueddfa Cymru
This new display at National Museum Cardiff - where his striking monumental figures can be seen on the north-west corner of the building - seeks to introduce his work to a wider audience by exploring the written word that was central to his art.

A self-taught artist who came to Wales in 1948 from the coalfields of Tyneside, Jones trained as a sculptor and letter-cutter in Eric Gill’s old workshop at Pigotts in Buckinghamshire before settling in Gwynedd where he worked in stone, slate, marble, bronze, and stained glass.

In 1966 he moved to a new house he had built overlooking the estuary of the Afon Dwyryd, near Portmeirion, where he befriended the renowned architect Clough Williams-Ellis. Jones even supported the latter’s vision at Portmeirion village and later penned the architect’s biography.

A writer at heart with a love of the Welsh language, Jones is best known as a carver of letters who made finely carved inscriptions in Westminster Abbey commemorating Dylan Thomas and David Lloyd George.

“This display is just a snapshot of Jonah Jones’ work, exploring that the centrality of the written word to his art,” says Oliver Fairclough, the Keeper of Art at National Museum Wales.

“His sculptures, framed inscriptions and watercolours on paper are key works in post-war Welsh art.

Although born in northern England, he had a deep affinity to Wales and we hope this exhibition reflects the impression he had on people and on art in Wales over five decades.”

  • Open 10am-5pm (closed Monday, December 24–26, 31 and January 1 2013). Follow the museum on Twitter @Museum_Cardiff.
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