• Early Life and Years

    Early Life and Years



     Jones was born in London on 5th July 1927 to Ella and Samuel Robinson, "a successful but modest senior civil servant".

    After leaving school, she briefly attended Saint Martin's School of Art in London, where she studied under the tutelage of Ruskin Spear. Jean's father however determined that she should put painting aside and study at Cambridge, and she eventually gave in, matriculating at Girton College, Cambridge, where she read English.

  • Jean's affinity with Dartmoor began in the 1930s when her father, as prescribed by his doctor, rented Warren Cottage on the nearby coast, to treat his wounds from the Battle of the Somme. The National Park would later become a pivotal space in Jones's life, resonant both in her art and as a means of escape from the cities where she lived.

  • Iris Murdoch - Jean Jones will "one day be as famous as Van Gogh"

  • Return to Art & the Oxford Exhibitions

    Return to Art & the Oxford Exhibitions




    In the early 1960s, after reading the letters of Vincent van Gogh, Jones was inspired to resume her interest in painting.


    Her work was the subject of a 1980 solo exhibition at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum. She also exhibited at the Bear Lane Gallery in Oxford and with the New Grafton and Boundary Galleries. In 1999, Duncan Campbell Contemporary Art held a studio sale of her of work.

  • Jones’s work is deeply engaged in the significant places of her life, in particular her surroundings in Primrose Hill, Oxford and the Devon countryside. She was remarkably uninterested in the exotic. Her art practice was in large part about achieving new levels of closeness to her immediate physical environment.

  • The notable art critic, David Carritt, has described Jones “as an Expressionist, albeit a most restrained, unstrident Expressionist,” identifying in her work a characteristic array of “lyrical feelings – usually of happiness, sometimes of melancholy.” Jones’s work often features the same settings, which "she paint[ed] again and again, noting every change wrought by light and season but recording, too, the emotion which these changes awaken in her” and documenting “a world of becoming, not being”.

  • Literary & Artistic Circle Literary & Artistic Circle

    Literary & Artistic Circle


    Whilst studying in Cambridge, Jones developed close personal friendships with Iris Murdoch and William Golding, relationships that would last their lifetimes. Jones would go on to paint portraits of both and a number of letters, detailing their intimate correspondences, remain intact. 


    After leaving Cambridge, Jean married  John Jones, a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and later the 38th Oxford Professor of Poetry (1978-83), and moved to Oxford with her new husband immediately, taking up residence in Holywell Cottage on St Cross Road. The marriage produced two children, Jeremy and Janet. In 1958 John purchased a cottage for the family in Yellands. Though Jean was yet to see it until the paperwork was signed and the transfer was complete, the cottage became an important space for her work; the site and subject of a number of her drawings and paintings. 


    Whilst in Oxford, Jean and John further enhanced their position within the prominent British literary, artistic, and academic circles of their time. Those in possession of Jones's work included J.R Tolkien, the poet John Heath Stubbs, the novelist and academic Rachel Trickett, the literary agent and publisher Hilary Rubinstein, the historian Harry Pitt, the American author and critic Diana Trilling, the Bishop John Oliver, and academics Andrew Wallace-Hadrill and J.M. Wallace-Hadrill. 

  • Struggles with Mental Health


    Throughout her life, Jones suffered from mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. Her difficulties with mental health severely limited the progression of her artistic career, and she was twice sectioned – with the GP on the occasion of her second sectioning describing her as "a woman who wears man's clothes".


    Despite spending many of her later years in and out of hospitals and clinics, Jones would continue to paint and draw, both out of habit and as an opportunity for calm and reflection.