Christianity and art

‘The artist’, by David Jones
Wood engraving from Eric Gill, Christianity and art
Capel-y-ffin, Abergavenny: Francis Walterson, 1927 (Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare Head Press)
S727.d.92.62, frontispiece

Engraved image © Trustees of the David Jones Estate. We are grateful to the estate of David Jones for permission to reproduce engravings by the artist.

In 1927 Eric Gill published Christianity and art setting out his beliefs about their interrelation. The frontispiece, shown here, was engraved by David Jones. David Jones (1895–1974) had studied at the Westminster School of Art after service in the trenches during the First World War. He came as a student to Ditchling in 1921, the year he became a Catholic, and stayed there for the next four years. Taught how to engrave by Desmond Chute, Jones soon became in this respect a pupil of Gill. He did a number of engravings for the St Dominic’s Press, though his most important work in this medium would come later for other presses. In 1923 Jones became a Dominican tertiary. A year later he became engaged to Gill’s daughter Petra, and also enrolled as a postulant in the Guild of Saints Joseph and Dominic, though he soon left the guild to follow Gill to Capel-y-Ffin.

In Christianity and art both Gill and Jones placed the initials T.O.S.D. (Third Order of St Dominic) after their names. In the same year Jones joined the Society of Wood Engravers, and began writing In parenthesis which would eventually be published in 1937 (his other most famous work, Anathemata, would not appear until 1952). Ewan Clayton has suggested that Jones’s method of writing, the interweaving of texts from different times, places, and genres, was partly inspired by Jones’s experience of the Divine Office as a Lay Dominican.

The Gills and David Jones left Capel-y-Ffin towards the end of 1928. Jones would live in London (his engagement to Petra had been broken off the previous year). The Gills settled at Pigotts, a house near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. From here Gill’s relations with the friars improved during the early 1930s, and he would visit them periodically at Blackfriars, Oxford. Jones much later became disillusioned with the English Dominicans as their religious life and worship altered in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, but a carved statue of St Dominic is said to have retained an important place in his house.

Extended captions