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Barbara Jones (1912 - 1978)

Marconi Transmitting the First Radio Signals from Cornwall to Newfoundland, 1901, 1950

Catalogue essay by Blanche Llewellyn

“Marconi Transmitting the First Radio Signals from Cornwall to Newfoundland” depicts Guglio Marconi, the 1st Marquis of Marconi, on December 12, 1901 confirming the reception of the first transatlantic radio signals – hearing Morse code for the letter “S” transmitted from Cornwall.

It is one of 12 watercolours commissioned in 1950 by the Financial Times for a calendar titled ‘A Half Century of Progress’.

Jones had a particular love for the medium of watercolour, particularly admiring  its translucent qualities, brilliance and its ability to evoke, rather than describe, a sense of place and time. In her book, Water-Colour Painting, A Practical Guide (1960), Jones didn’t just focus on imparting technical skills; she also aimed to captivate readers with the sheer delight of the medium: “One day when you come in … you will pour out a drink, light a cigarette, and sink into a chair, having painted a picture. Nothing in the world is like this sensation, peace and elation, God on the seventh day”.

By the time she was commissioned for this project, Jones had already established a solid reputation. She was widely admired and notably prolific, having contributed significantly to the Recording Britain project. This initiative, the brainchild of Kenneth Clark, which entailed the creation of over 1500 watercolours and drawings, aimed to document British life and landscapes during the Second World War.

Marconi Transmitting the First Radio Signals from Cornwall to Newfoundland
x W40.5cm
Signed, watercolour and pencil.
Jones, Barbara

Barbara Jones (1912 - 1978)

Barbara Jones first attended art school in Croydon (1931–33) before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art (1933–36), where she met painter Cliff Barry whom she married in 1941. A prolific and varied artist, during WWII she worked with the Pilgrim Trust on the Recording Britain series, making one of the largest contributions of the 63 artists taking part. She wrote and illustrated books on design history, many of which are today considered seminal, including The Unsophisticated Arts, 1951 and Design for Death, 1967. In 1951, she organised the ‘Black Eyes and Lemonade: Curating Popular Art’ exhibition held at the Whitechapel Gallery for the Festival of Britain. A fellow of the Society of Industrial Artists from the same year, she was made vice president in 1969. She was also a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and a member of the Society of Authors. A retrospective exhibition of the contents of her studio was held at Katharine House Gallery, Marlborough, in 1999.