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Ray Howard-Jones was born in 1903 in Lambourn, Berkshire, and died in 1996 in London. She largely grew up, however, in Penarth. In the early 1920s she studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. At first, in part due to illness and family commitments, Ray Howard-Jones’s career was slow to take off. During the Second World War, however, she secured commissions from the War Artists Advisory Committee and some of this work is in the Imperial War Museum. After 1949, she spent a great deal of time in Pembrokeshire, alone or with the photographer Raymond Moore until they split up in 1971. She is particularly well-known for her Pembrokeshire coastal work.
David Moore (click here), who knew the artist in her last decade following a period working for Pembrokeshire Museum Service, has been researching her life and work.
In 2010 he published an illustrated and comprehensive article about her mosaics in Andamento, the Journal of the British Association for Modern Mosaic, Volume 4. This was entitled ‘Bleeding Fingers & Bach Fugues: The Mosaic Work of Ray Howard-Jones’. Copies are available from the BAMM website (www.bamm.org.uk) under ‘Education & Resources’.
He is currently preparing a book about the artist and hopes that, eventually, there will be an exhibition at National Museum Cardiff and/or the National Library of Wales with a comprehensive catalogue. He has tracked down important work, much of which is in private hands, and would be pleased to hear from anyone who knew, has work by or information about Ray Howard-Jones.
David Moore may be contacted at: The Crooked Window, 90 Struet, Brecon, Powys, Wales, LD3 7LS or e-mailed on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Moore explains: “Ray Howard-Jones was a significant Welsh landscape artist, a contemporary of Graham Sutherland, John Piper and Eric Ravilious. Long overdue for critical reassessment, she was extremely prolific over a life of ninety-three years and has left a considerable legacy of work. Much of her best work is in private hands although she is represented in many public collections. While studying at the Slade School of Art in London, she was taught by Henry Tonks, Philip Wilson Steer and Tancred Borenius. As a War Artist she recorded coastal fortifications and merchant shipping being prepared for D-Day.”
He continues: “Ray is best known for her remarkable use of colour in impressionistic and often deeply spiritual Pembrokeshire seascapes and coastal scenes. Many were painted on Skomer and around Marloes. She also sketched and painted the coastal wildlife. She had a strong sense of design and produced two outstanding mosaics, one on the newspaper office Thomson House in Cardiff and the other an altarpiece in Marchmont St Giles’ Church in Edinburgh.”
In her obituary in The Guardian in 1996 Roger Worsley wrote: “Ray Howard-Jones, an artist of considerable but perhaps still under-appreciated talent, has died at the age of 93. She spent much of her long life struggling against what she experienced as the disadvantage of having been born a woman. She was a mass of contradictions, a very feminine woman who signed her work “Ray”, partly to disguise her gender (her Christian name was actually Rosemary). She was convinced that her technical abilities as an artist, were as good as those of her male contemporaries. In the end, she had the satisfaction of seeing her work in public and private collections around the world. Her stays on Skomer showed her that nature and her deep inner spiritual life, as well as Celtic mystery and legends, were sources of inspiration.”
Commissions: 1958 mosaic for Thompson House, Cardiff; 1964-5 mosaic for Grange Church, Edinburgh.