This first biography of the famous Welsh painter Thomas Jones has been published this week.
Thomas Jones of Pencerrig: artist, traveller, country squire by Richard Veasey is the full-length biography of the eighteenth-century landscape painter and seeks to draw together the different threads of his life.
Born in September 1742, Thomas Jones moved with his parents from Llandrindod Wells to Pencerrig close to Builth Wells when he was around seven years old. He was educated first by Dissenting ministers before being sent with his elder brother to Christ College in Brecon.
Following in the footsteps of his master Richard Wilson, he travelled to Italy and spent six and a half years there first in Rome among English artists then in Naples where he was welcomed into the local artistic milieu.
His career led him to return to London in 1783 until the unexpected death of his elder brother in 1787. Thereafter he had to assume responsibility for the running of the family estate of Pencerrig in Radnorshire, where he remained until his death in 1803.
Two of his most prominent works include The Bard (1774) and A Wall in Naples (1782).
He was the first Welsh - and British, artist to write his memoirs.
‘As an artist Jones has come to be recognised above all for his striking images of buildings in Naples and for the freshness of his pictures of the Radnorshire countryside’ said author Richard Veasey, ‘But the view we now have of him runs somewhat counter to the story he tells in his memoirs of a thwarted professional career.’
‘There is indeed a tension between the pictures he produced largely for his own pleasure and what he achieved as a pupil and follower of Richard Wilson. It is the difference between his own direct and personal vision and a classically derived and idealised one’ explained Richard.
The memoirs, which he wrote when he was settled at Pencerrig, offer a vivid account of his life in London, of his travels through France to Italy, of what he did in Rome and Naples and of the long journey home by boat. The Day Book provides a similar record of life on the estate in Wales.
Together with a handful of other documents, these give us further insights into the life Jones led when he set up home with Maria in Naples and what was involved in the running of a large country estate.
Richard Veasey was a lecturer in French and European Studies at the University of Sussex. After he retired, he lived for a number of years in converted farm buildings on the former estate of Thomas Jones and became familiar with the landscape the artist both transformed and painted. He currently lives in Kington, Herefordshire.
Thomas Jones of Pencerrig: artist, traveller, country squire by Richard Veasey (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.