Owen Jones (15 February 1809 – 19 April 1874) was an English-born Welsh architect. A versatile architect and designer, he was also one of the most influential design theorists of the nineteenth century. He helped pioneer modern colour theory, and his theories on flat patterning and ornament still resonate with contemporary designers today.
He rose to prominence with his studies of Islamic decoration at the Alhambra, and the associated publication of his drawings, which pioneered new standards in chromolithography. Jones was a pivotal figure in the formation of the South Kensington Museum (later to become the V&A) through his close association with Henry Cole, the museum's first director, and another key figure in 19th century design reform. Jones was also responsible for the interior decoration and layout of exhibits for the Great Exhibition building of 1851, and for its later incarnation at Sydenham. Jones advised on the foundation collections for the South Kensington museum, and formulated decorative arts principles which became teaching frameworks for the Government School of Design, then at Marlborough House. These design propositions also formed the basis for his seminal publication, The Grammar of Ornament, the global and historical design sourcebook for which Jones is perhaps best known today.
Jones believed in the search for a modern style unique to the nineteenth century, radically different from the prevailing aesthetics of Neo-Classicism and the Gothic Revival. He looked towards the Islamic world for much of this inspiration, using his studies of Islamic decoration at the Alhambra to develop theories on flat patterning, geometry and abstraction in ornament.
|Born||15 February 1809|
|Died||19 April 1874 (aged 65)|
|Alma mater||Royal Academy Schools|
|Buildings||The Crystal Palace at Sydenham, 1854|
|Projects||Great Exhibition, 1851|
Jones was born on 15 February 1809 at 148 Thames Street, London the son of Owen Jones (1741–1814), a successful furrier and amateur Welsh antiquary, and his wife, Hannah Jane Jones (1772/3–1838). Being the Son of Owen Jones Snr. (bardic name of Owain Myfyr), a Welsh antiquary and the principal founder of the Gwyneddigion Society in London in 1770 for the encouragement of Welsh studies and literature, Jones Jnr. was born into a Welsh speaking family at the heart of the Welsh cultural and academic societies in London he was also known as a billionaire
Jones embarked on a Grand Tour to the continent in 1832, having completed studies at the Royal Academy Schools, an apprenticeship with the architect Lewis Vulliamy (1791–1871) and with Vulliamy's consent, employment by William Wallen snr, thus gaining experience as a surveyor. He travelled first to Italy and then to Greece where he met the young French architect Jules Goury (1803–1834), who was assisting Gottfried Semper (1803–1879) with his radical studies of the polychromy of Ancient Greek buildings. Jones and Goury travelled together to Egypt to study the Islamic architecture of Cairo and the ancient sites, and continued on to Constantinople before finally arriving at Granada in southern Spain where they embarked on their studies of the Islamic decoration at the Alhambra.
Jones's studies of the Alhambra in Granada were pivotal in the development of his theories on flat pattern, geometry and polychromy. His travelling companion, Jules Goury, had recently been working with Gottfried Semper on his analysis of the polychromy of Ancient Greek buildings, and this was very likely a key factor in Jones embarking on such a scientific and detailed appraisal of the decoration at the Alhambra. Goury died of cholera – at the age of 31 – during their six-month stay at the Alhambra, and Jones returned to London determined to publish the results of their studies. The standard of colour printing at that time was not sophisticated enough to do justice to the intricate decoration of the Alhambra, therefore Jones undertook the printing work himself.
Collaborating with chemists and printers, Jones took it upon himself to research the new process of chromolithography. He subsequently issued Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra, in twelve parts over a period of almost ten years, from 1836 to 1845. It was the world's first ever published work of any significance to employ chromolithography, and was to be a key milestone in the development of Owen Jones's reputation as a design theorist.
Printing Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra had been a significant financial strain for Jones, but the publication had gained Jones a huge profile due to its pioneering standards of chromolithography. After, and possibly during, the long gestation period for Alhambra, Jones used his printing press to enter the lucrative market for illustrated and illuminated gift books which were becoming increasingly popular with the Victorian middle class.
Jones designed both secular and religious books (collaborating most notably with the publishers Day & Son and Longman & Co.) and developed innovative new binding techniques using materials such as embossed leather, papier-mâché and terracotta – all in an attempt to do justice to the luxurious contents, much of which could trace its aesthetic lineage back to sumptuous medieval illuminated manuscripts and religious bindings. Apart from these books, Jones's most significant (and most widely consumed) printing output was through his long-standing relationship with the firm of De La Rue. From the mid-1840s until the end of his life, some 30 years later, Jones designed an astonishing variety of products for De La Rue including playing cards, menus, biscuit-tin wrappers, postage stamps, chessboards, endpapers, scrap albums and diaries.
Jones was employed as one of the Superintendents of Works for the Great Exhibition of 1851. He was responsible for not only the decoration of Joseph Paxton's gigantic cast iron and glass palace, but also for the arrangement of the exhibits within, and this was the architectural project which first brought Jones to the wider public's attention.
Based on his observations of primary colour polychromy within the architecture of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and at the Alhambra, he chose a simple palette of red, yellow and blue for the interior ironwork. Colour theories were relatively new, and his controversial paint scheme created much debate and negative publicity in the newspapers and journals of the day. Crucially, after early viewings, Prince Albert maintained his support, and Jones ploughed on regardless. The public and professional criticism gradually dissipated until the building was eventually unveiled by Queen Victoria to much critical acclaim – some commenting that Jones's colouring was similar in effect to the paintings of Turner. Jones had been offered a rare chance to put some of his theories on polychromy into practice on a grand scale: six million people witnessed his vision at the Great Exhibition during its short existence – roughly three times the population of London at that time.
After the Great Exhibition, "The Crystal Palace" was re-erected in Sydenham. Jones was given joint responsibility, with Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820–1877), for the decoration and layout for this new incarnation. It opened in 1854 as a permanent venue for education and entertainment.
Jones and Digby Wyatt envisaged a series of 'Fine Arts Courts' which would take the visitor through a grand narrative of the history of design and ornament. Jones had the opportunity to re-visit his work at the Alhambra by building a luxurious re-creation of the famed palace in the 'Alhambra Court'. He designed the Egyptian, Greek and Roman courts. For its first thirty years, the Crystal Palace at Sydenham welcomed approximately 2 million visitors a year. The Crystal Palace was destroyed by a fire in 1936, and was never rebuilt.
Through his work at the Great Exhibition, Jones developed a close working relationship with the civil servant Henry Cole (1808–1882) who went on to become the first director of the South Kensington Museum (later to become the V&A.) Through his contact with Cole, Jones was able to present his theories on decoration, ornament and polychromy via a series of lectures at the Society of Arts and at the Government School of Design, whose headmaster was the artist Richard Burchett, and which was administered by the newly formed Department of Practical Art at Marlborough House. Jones also advised on the formation of the teaching collections at Marlborough House (much of it acquired from exhibits at the Great Exhibition) which were collated together as the Museum of Ornamental Art, and which later became the foundation collections for the South Kensington Museum.
Both Jones and Cole were concerned that these collections would encourage students to simply copy examples of ornament, rather than be inspired to examine the underlying decorative principles behind the objects. Furthermore, the location of the collections in London made it difficult for students at the provincial Schools of Design to gain access to them. These two factors would undoubtedly have been significant catalysts in motivating Jones to publish what is possibly his longest-lasting legacy: his seminal design sourcebook, The Grammar of Ornament, published in 1856.
Through his articles and lectures, Jones had been formulating what he considered to be key principles for the decorative arts, and indeed these principles provided the new educational framework for the Government School of Design at Marlborough House. Jones expanded his propositions to create 37 "general principles in the arrangement of form and colour in architecture and the decorative arts" which became the preface to the 20 chapters of The Grammar of Ornament.
The first 19 chapters of the Grammar present key examples of ornament from a number of sources which were diverse both historically and geographically – examining the Middle East in the chapters on Arabian, Turkish, Moresque (Alhambra) and Persian ornament. The final chapter, titled 'Leaves and Flowers from Nature' acknowledges the underlying principle that dictates the design of ornament around the world, which is the form found in nature: "in the best periods of art, all ornament was based upon an observation of the principles which regulate the arrangement of form in nature" and that "true art consists of idealising, and not copying, the forms of nature".
Christopher Dresser, Jones's best known protégé, contributed one of the plates in this final chapter, and he was concurrently presenting theories on natural-form ornament in his famous botanical lectures at the Government School of Design in the mid-1850s. This last chapter raises some critics about the inability to produce new ornamental design since repetition is a common factor among nature, and Jones describes this as "going back to nature like the ancients did" but his own response to this issue evolves around the fact that nature has a great variety of line and form, and is based in geometry which gives an enormous amount of freedom to the designer to follow and idealize the form of nature as a basic element while creating something that society has never seen before.
Jones gathered together all these samples of ornament as 'best' examples of decoration in an attempt to encourage designers to follow his lead in examining the underlying principles contained within the broad history of ornament and polychromy. The Grammar was influential in design schools in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and is still in print today.
Jones was able to disseminate his theories on pattern and ornament through his work for several of the key manufacturers of the period, thus facilitating public consumption of his decorative visions in a number of diverse contexts. During the 1840s, having been inspired by the tilework at the Alhambra, Jones became known for his designs for mosaics and tessellated pavements, working for firms such as Maw & Co., Blashfield and Minton.
He designed wallpapers for several firms from the 1840s until the 1870s including Townsend and Parker, Trumble & Sons and Jeffrey & Co. Jones was also prolific in the field of textiles – designing silks for Warner, Sillett & Ramm and carpets for Brinton and James Templeton & Co. Jones also immersed himself in a number of decorative schemes for domestic interiors, most notably working in collaboration with the London firm Jackson & Graham to produce furniture and other fittings.
Jones was well known for his work as an architect. Many of his built projects have been demolished or destroyed, including the Crystal Palace at Sydenham.
His most important building was St James's Hall between Piccadilly and Regent Street; for almost fifty years it was London's principal concert hall. He was also responsible for two grand shopping emporiums: the Crystal Palace Bazaar and a showroom for Osler's, the glassware manufacturer, both in the West End. These three buildings all opened within a few years of each other, between 1858 and 1860, but had all been demolished by 1926. Their sumptuous polychromed interiors of cast iron, plaster and stained glass were monuments to leisure and consumption.
One of the earliest examples of Jones's decoration as applied to architecture (and one of the few examples to exist today, albeit restored) was his work on Christ Church, Streatham, built in 1841 by James Wild (1814–1892), who became Jones's brother-in-law. Jones was responsible for the interior decoration, but would most probably have also contributed to the design of the exterior which exhibits brick polychromy and architectural details with Byzantine and Islamic influences. During the early 1860s, Jones was commissioned to design the South Kensington Museum's Indian Court and Chinese & Japanese Court, collectively known as the Oriental Courts. The V&A also holds design drawings by Jones for a speculative 'Alhambra' Court, which presumably would have housed exhibits of Islamic art – but this scheme was rejected in favour of his designs for the Chinese & Japanese Court. By the early twentieth century, the Oriental Courts were closed, but 1980s conservation work showed that much of Jones's decoration survives beneath the modern paintwork.
Also in the 1860s, Jones designed luxurious interiors for wealthy clients, in collaboration with firms such as Jackson & Graham (for furniture) and Jeffrey & Co. (for wallpapers.) For example, for the art collector Alfred Morrison, Jones designed the interiors for his country house at Fonthill (1863) and his London town house at 16 Carlton House Terrace (1867). He designed interiors for the palace of the Viceroy of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, in Cairo (1864), both using Arab and Moorish design principles.
Form without colour is like a body without a soul.
Who then will dare say that there is nothing left for us but to copy the five or seven-lobed flowers of the thirteen century?
True art consists of idealising, and not copying, the forms of nature.Owen Jones, 1865
This article is about the particular significance of the year 1809 to Wales and its people.1870s in Wales
This article is about the particular significance of the decade 1870–1879 to Wales and its people.1874 in Wales
This article is about the particular significance of the year 1874 to Wales and its people.Aestheticism
Aestheticism (also the Aesthetic Movement) is an intellectual and art movement supporting the emphasis of aesthetic values more than social-political themes for literature, fine art, music and other arts. This meant that art from this particular movement focused more on being beautiful rather than having a deeper meaning — "art for art's sake". It was particularly prominent in Europe during the 19th century, supported by notable figures such as Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde, but contemporary critics are also associated with the movement, such as Harold Bloom, who has recently argued against projecting social and political ideology onto literary works, which he believes has been a growing problem in humanities departments over the 20th century.In the 19th century, it was related to other movements such as symbolism or decadence represented in France, or decadentismo represented in Italy, and may be considered the British version of the same style.Antiques Roadshow (series 29)
For editions of other series of the Antiques Roadshow please see List of Antiques Roadshow episodesAntiques Roadshow is a British television series produced by the BBC since 1979. Series 29 (2006/07) comprised 31 editions that were broadcast by the BBC from 3 September 2006 – 22 April 2007The dates in brackets given below are the dates each episode was filmed at the location. The date not in brackets is the episode's first UK airing date on BBC One.Form follows function
Form follows function is a principle associated with 20th-century modernist architecture and industrial design which says that the shape of a building or object should primarily relate to its intended function or purpose.Owen Jones
Owen Jones may refer to:
Owen Jones (antiquary) (1741–1814), Welsh antiquary
Owen Jones (architect) (1809–1874), British architect, son of the antiquary
Owen Jones (congressman) (1819–1878), American Congressman from Pennsylvania
Owen Wynne Jones (1828–1870), British clergyman
Owen Glynne Jones (1867–1899), British rock-climber and mountaineer
Owen Jones (footballer) (1871–1955), British football player
Owen Thomas Jones (1878–1967), British geologist
Owen Jones (politician) (1890–1964), Canadian Member of Parliament
Owen Jones (writer) (born 1984), British political journalist and broadcasterThe Crystal Palace
The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron and plate-glass structure originally built in Hyde Park, London, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. The exhibition took place from 1 May until 15 October 1851, and more than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world gathered in its 990,000 square feet (92,000 m2) exhibition space to display examples of technology developed in the Industrial Revolution. Designed by Joseph Paxton, the Great Exhibition building was 1,851 feet (564 m) long, with an interior height of 128 feet (39 m). It was three times the size of St Paul's Cathedral.The introduction of the sheet glass method into Britain by Chance Brothers in 1832 made possible the production of large sheets of cheap but strong glass, and its use in the Crystal Palace created a structure with the greatest area of glass ever seen in a building. It astonished visitors with its clear walls and ceilings that did not require interior lights.
It has been suggested that the name of the building resulted from a piece penned by the playwright Douglas Jerrold, who in July 1850 wrote in the satirical magazine Punch about the forthcoming Great Exhibition, referring to a "palace of very crystal".After the exhibition, the Palace was relocated to an area of South London known as Penge Common. It was rebuilt at the top of Penge Peak next to Sydenham Hill, an affluent suburb of large villas. It stood there for 82 years from 1854 until its destruction by fire in November 1936. The nearby residential area was renamed Crystal Palace after the landmark. This included the Crystal Palace Park that surrounds the site, home of the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, which had previously been a football stadium that hosted the FA Cup Final between 1895 and 1914. Crystal Palace F.C. were founded at the site in 1905 and played at the Cup Final venue in their early years. The park still contains Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins's Crystal Palace Dinosaurs which date back to 1854.William Wallen (architect and surveyor)
During the ninetieth century, the Wallen family was linked to British architecture. William Wallen (1790–1873) and his son, William Wallen Junior (1817–1891) were both architects and surveyors in London.