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This review is taken from PN Review 109, Volume 22 Number 5, May - June 1996.

A CENTURY JONATHAN MILES & DEREK SHIEL, David Jones- The Maker Unmade (Seren) £29.95
ANTHONY HYNE, David Jones - A Fusilier at the Front (Seren) £14.95

Although many artists have been accomplished writers, if only of letters, David Jones stands out because, for a time, writing usurped the place of art in his life and, in evaluations of his total oeuvre, tends to be considered the more important expression of his creativity. In Parenthesis in particular has gradually won widespread critical acclaim. Yet he was first and foremost an artist and Miles and Shiel have set out to examine the whole of his output in picture-making, engraving, small sculpture and inscriptions. It is a large undertaking and has led to the production of a big book at first sight pleasing to the eye, with its broad margins and profusion of illustrations.

Comparisons between Jones and Blake can be taken only so far, but are not inapt. Both had little formal education other than in art and were essentially autodidacts. Both espoused philosophies in which mysticism plays a large part, Swedenborgian theosophy in Blake's case, the Neo-Thomism of Jacques Maritain in that of Jones, through the influence of strong-minded friends, Flaxman and Eric, Gill respectively. More significantly in the context of this book, both were artists whose work is not readily classifiable with that of contemporaries: it belongs with no group or movement. Miles and Shiel find this difficult to accept. They would prefer to see Jones, at any rate, embrace abstraction or any other form of modernism rather than follow his own inclinations towards what they pejoratively term 'medievalism' or 'Neo-Romanticism'. 'Modern', on ...


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