ABSTRACT

The artist and poet David Jones said that he and all his contemporaries were acutely aware of what he called ‘The Break’.1 By this he meant two things. First, the dominant cultural and religious ideology that had unified Europe for more than 1,000 years no longer existed. All that was left were fragmentary individual visions. Secondly, the world is now dominated by technology, so that the arts seem to be marginalised. They are of no obvious use in such a society, and their previous role as signs no longer has any widespread public resonance. Their work was ‘idiosyncratic and personal in expression and experimental in technique, intimate and private rather than public and corporate’.2 ‘The priest and the artist are already in the catacombs, but separate catacombs, for the technician divides to rule.’3 There was no corporate tradition and, he argued, one could not be looked for without a renewal of the whole culture. Writing after World War II, he remarked that the situation at that time was even more pronounced and dire than it had seemed in the 1930s.4 This was a problem with which Jones wrestled all his life in both his poetry and painting, and it is arguable that his failure to resolve it to his satisfaction resulted in both his personal breakdowns and the complex strangeness of some of his work. His thought on this subject, as well as his art, will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 3.