© The Trustees of the David Jones Estate


David Jones (1895 – 1974)


610 X 480 MM
Accession number


As in the sketch Brief Record of a Bird on a Bough, this drawing has a freshness partly due to David Jones’ use of pastel, a soft, powdery medium that cannot support being erased and worked over to the extent of pencil. The tree is viewed from below, from midway up the trunk, with its branches spread out, as if exceeding the perimeters of the paper. Dabs of yellow and umber between the branches hint at a few autumn leaves still clinging on, and these are intermingled with dabs of blue for sky. The spaces left all around for the bare paper to show through augment a sense of breeziness.

Trees figure predominantly in Jones’ work between 1947–64, in the aftermath of his second nervous breakdown. He was living in residential care in Harrow, just north of London, all this time, first in recovery in a nursing home, Bowden House; thereafter, from his small room in Northwick Lodge, he became attached to the view of elm trees and playing fields from the casement windows. Speaking about Vexilla Regis (1947), a highly complex picture (now in Kettles Yard, Cambridge) and perhaps the culmination of the tree drawings, Jones describes its main object as comparing the tree with the cross of Christ. Elsewhere however he warns against literal explanation of meaning:
A church dignitary once said to Lord Tennyson, with reference to a certain poem “Do these figures symbolize Faith, Hope and Charity?” to which Tennyson replied “They do and they don’t and I don’t like being tied down!” or words to that effect. It’s very much like that in painting or any work of art, I think. So many confluent ideas are involved in a single image.[1]

[1] Hague, René (ed.), Dai Greatcoat: A Self-Portrait of David Jones in his Letters (Faber & Faber, London 1980), pp.149–52

Further reading
Jones, David, In Parenthesis (Faber & Faber, London 1937)
Ede, H.S., ‘David Jones’, Horizon, Vol. VIII, No. 44, August 1943, pp.125–36
Ironside, Robin, David Jones (Penguin Modern Painters, London 1949)
Jones, David, The Anathemata (Faber and Faber, London 1952),
David Blamires, David Jones, Artist & Writer (Manchester University Press, 1971)
Hague, René (ed.), Dai Greatcoat: A Self-Portrait of David Jones in his Letters (Faber & Faber, London 1980)
Hills, Paul, David Jones M(Tate Gallery, London 1981)
Blissett, William, The Long Conversation: A Memoir of David Jones (Oxford University Press, 1981)