A Life in Cornish Art - Robert Jones

PUBLISHED: 14:19 03 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:49 20 February 2013

Robert's new exhibition is at Penwith Galleries this month

Robert's new exhibition is at Penwith Galleries this month

Robert Jones is an artist devoted to the land and seascapes of the county he grew up in. Cornwall Life talks to Robert about his latest exhibition

A Life in Cornish Art


Robert Jones is an artist devoted to the land and seascapes of the county he grew up in. Cornwall Life talks to Robert about his latest exhibition


For over 30 years, Cornish-born artist Robert Jones has used the land and seascapes of Cornwall as the inspiration for his work. His latest exhibition, What Caught my Eye, takes place at the Penwith Galleries in St Ives from 8-22 September, to coincide with the towns September Festival. It shows how, despite Roberts familiarity with his subject matter, he has maintained the same energy and dynamism in his paintings. I am always finding something fresh to paint theres always something new to catch my eye, he says.

The artists former tutor, Robert Organ, describes his paintings as: the work of a wizard. The tutor says in his foreword to a biography on Robert by Art Historian Jenny Pery: With the tiniest gradations of tone, and warm and cool greys, he can create a sense of vast spaces, thrilling effusions of light, surging movement and flux.

Brought up in Newquay in the 1940s and 50s, Robert started painting at a very early age. He and his contemporaries used Newquays beaches, coves and cliff-laden coastline as their playground and he is convinced that his childhood experiences have played a major part in shaping his art. As a boy, my friends and I were allowed extraordinary freedom to roam where we wanted. We fell to our deaths from cliffs almost, and drowned in the sea almost. But through these experiences we gained an understanding of the elements: the weather, tides and sea conditions, which can be seen in my paintings, says Robert.


Throughout my life I have felt the need to create things whether painting or working in wood. It isnt a job, its the core of my life

Painting is clearly a way of life for the artist and he knows he is lucky that he can earn a living from his talent. Throughout my life I have felt the need to create things whether painting or working in wood. It isnt a job, its the core of my life.

Robert studied first at Redruth Art School where the principal teacher, Margery Hall, was extremely encouraging, giving him space and time to grow. He then went to Falmouth Art School, which at the time comprised only around 65 students, where his tutors included Francis Hewlett, Robert Organ and Lionel Miskin under the principalship of Michael Finn. A post-graduate course at Manchester College of Art in the mid-1960s and teaching qualifications in Brighton, led to three years teaching at A.S. Neills Summerhill School in Suffolk.

Returning to Cornwall with his wife Susie and a young family in 1970s he went on to gain seven years inshore fishing experience as the skipper of fishing boats, catching lobsters and crab in summer on the north coast and mackerel in winter on the south coast. He ended up with a 38ft ex-French Crabber with two or three crew working 450 crab pots. He has fond memories of those days.

As with his childhood experiences on Newquays beaches, his close connection to the sea and coastline as a fisherman has had a significant impact on his artwork, giving his paintings a truthfulness in terms of how the seas or skies look in different conditions.

In the 1980s Robert decided to return to teaching, this time at Mullion School. There was a growing awareness of his artistic talent at this time in 1982 his drawings were shown at the British Drawing Exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London. He also exhibited in several other galleries, which gave him the confidence in his 40s to embark on a full-time career as a professional painter. He is proud of the fact that he was able to support his wife and five children through his work as an artist. An exhibition of still life pictures at Penzances Wolf at the Door gallery, described by art critic Frank Ruhrmund as: the most un-still still lives I have ever seen, led to the offer of a solo show at Newlyn Art Gallery, at which all 50 paintings swiftly found a buyer. Since then he has exhibited regularly in galleries throughout the country and abroad.

Robert has received invitations to lecture at Cambridge University and in Tokyo, but he takes as much pleasure as anything from the comments of the people who buy his paintings.

After one talk I gave in Falmouth, a man came up to me and said hed bought a painting of mine many years earlier without knowing anything about who I was. He said it still gave him pleasure every time he passed it. Its really nice that my paintings continue to mean something to him and the other people who have made kind remarks about them, Robert says.


What Caught My Eye, runs from 8-22 September at Penwith Galleries, Back Road West, St Ives, TR26 1NL.01736 795579

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