David Jones will be unknown to many, but he is revered by those who have discovered his work in all its complexity and power. He was one of the most original British artists of the 20th century, even if his creative light was often overshadowed by brighter and more brittle talents. Despite being showered with honours during his lifetime, he actively shrank from the limelight, and it is only recently that his star has started to rise again. The last two years have seen two exhibitions of his art as well as the performance of a new opera based on his poetic masterpiece of war, In Parenthesis (1937), not to mention the publication of my own monograph (co-authored with Paul Hills) on his visual work. Hard on their heels comes this long-awaited biography by Thomas Dilworth, the fruit of first-hand acquaintance with its subject and of many years of deep research and reflection on Jones’s work within its broader cultural context.
Jones’s life fell naturally into two distinct parts. In the first half he engaged with the times and was dedicated to artistic experiment and innovation; in the second he became increasingly hermetic as he withdrew into his complex interior world following a serious breakdown, developing a wary self-reliance