|Bateman the Opticians, Croydon, from 'The Unsophisticated Arts'|
We decided to re-issue because we love Barbara Jones and have always done so. It seemed we were talking more and more with friends about her and I guess we were prompted by these conversations to go for it and republish the book. Simon Costin who curated the show at the Whitechapel was key and whilst drinking tea with him at a cafe in Dalston we got to talking about the exhibition and the book. We felt confident and so the journey begun.
It is a departure for us. But we have always said to ourselves that we should publish what we like and to take the odd detour away from the Classics.
|Barbara Jones enjoying her work - what is that peculiar ornament on the bookshelf?|
The design is very different. Adrian spent hours trawling through Barbara Jones’s studio in Hampstead and discovered so much that we wanted to include in the new edition, especially as we wanted to bring more colour to the book - the original is mostly black and white. We also wanted to show her working process, hence the inclusion of sketches and early paintings.
Her studio has remained largely untouched since her death; most of the artwork has gone, but her sketchbooks and ephemera remain. We spent hundreds of hours cleaning up the images and making them good for publication. it was a joy to work on because you look so closely at every single image and you see each page in a new way.
The new edition is lighter, brighter and more colourful than the original, which was printed on paper made out of recycled porridge (it was 1951, after all). A little of the chiaroscuro of Jones's vision is lost - the photos of roundabout horses are not quite as black and sinister as they were previously - but all in all this is a fantastic book. Buy it now!
|No detail too small... Interior of a canal boat, from 'The Unsophisticated Arts'|
In a Foreword to the new edition, Peter Blake notes that 'I have no doubt that discovering Barbara Jones was one of the more important things that happened to me, and helped form the way I work.' In her books and in her almost unclassifiable 1951 exhibition 'Black Eyes and Lemonade', Jones introduced what she called 'the vernaculars' to a culture desperate for some alternative to pretentious, soulless modernism. She wasn't worried about distinctions between folk and machine-made art but stuck them altogether, choosing work that was, as she put it 'bold and fizzy.'
|Never judge a book by its cover? Maybe in this case...|
|Ravilious would have loved this, from 'The Unsophisticated Arts'|
When the Romans left England there were a thousand dull years filled only with ballads, pipe and tabor, folk dancing and maypoles. Gradually, however, the fairs emerge from the manuscripts, the tumblers and dancing bears begin to perform, and at last there is something to look at.
|from 'Recording Britain', early 1940s (V&A)|
He makes beautiful patterns with carcasses and joints and festoons of sausages or, when meat is scarce, he hangs up sheets of paper by their corners, cut into patterns if he has time, and heightened with loops of black pudding.
|Interior of saddler's shop, Croydon, from 'Recording Britain' (V&A)|
I wonder if this was her Dad's place, as he was a successful Croydon saddler.
|St Mary's Homes and Chapel, Godstone, 'Recording Britain' (V&A)|
|Fairground litho, 1946 (V&A) - there's a detailed chapter on this subject in 'The Unsophisticated Arts'|
|An extraordinary cover for an extraordinary book...|
|On a lighter note... an illustration from 'The Unsophisticated Arts'|
She's become popular I think because of a new audience today, and because of the revival in artists of that time and the influence they have today. There's a new breed of artist who are deeply inspired by people like her, Bawden and Ravilious. etc etc.
At the moment The Whitechapel Gallery are hosting an exhibition about 'Black Eyes and Lemonade', and in June there's going to be a selling show of work from Jones's own collection at Burgh House in Hampstead. The pieces below will be featured. Meanwhile, if you want to know a bit more about her books, there's a nice page at Ash Rare Books.
|Original artwork for 'Gift Book', on display at Burgh House, Hampstead, June 2013|
|Original artwork from 'The Unsophisticated Arts' - also at Burgh House|
|Stook Duck Houses, Calbourne Water Mill, Isle of Wight|
She was the author of three important books that significantly affected the taste and perception of her contemporaries in ways that more famous artists have never succeeded in doing. The first, The Unsophisticated Arts (1951), opened people’s eyes to the art in everyday life … and that the enjoyment of art was not restricted to an educated few, but was available for the enjoyment of all. It is difficult to over-emphasise her work in this area, but one can see the effects in the displays in almost every museum and gallery throughout the country today. The second, Follies and Grottoes, developed an entirely new field for architectural and building historians, and led to the founding of an international society … The third, Design for Death (1967), sparked a similar fashion for the study of funeral customs, cemeteries, and artifacts associated with death … How many other artists and writers can boast of having achieved so much in changing the perception and temper of succeeding generations? … The roll-call of English artists in the twentieth century is not so lengthy that we can afford to overlook such a distinctive figure. (BC Bloomfield – The Life and Work of Barbara Jones [1912-1978] via Ash Rare Books)
All work shown is the copyright of Barbara Jones's estate.