I have surprised myself. I thought I must have written about Barbara Jones on Shelf Appeal. But no. I think quite a few books and posts came out on her in the last few years. And so in my mind I equated reading about her with having written about her.
Jones was one of the first illustrators I collected but hadn’t realised it. And then I spotted I had a lot of bits and pieces by her and began to do the Google thing. Then came a small catalogue and selling exhibition. And then a rather more in depth book by Ruth Artmonsky. And now Jones is common parlance in the Ravilious-Bawden-inter-war-mid-century-illustration-fan circles. And consequently prices have hiked and more than one person is watching things on eBay.
Jones, like Bawden and Ravilious, was a chronicler of British folklore, craft and eccentricities. Maybe not the better artist, her drawings have a solid humour and seeming speed of execution that makes them especially lively on the page.
A sometime curator and author herself, Jones best work was drawn out on book jackets and inside books, as illustrations. This fish porter at Billingsgate Market is from one of my favourite books English Fairs and Markets. Printed by Batsford in 1953, I have a smart copy that I paid a bit more than normal for. It’s all about the dust jacket. Nearly fine, dontchaknow.
The illustrations are a lot better than nearly fine though. Bold, bawdy and a bit, well, brilliant.