book cover David JonesA lecture by author Tom Dilworth will serve as the Canadian launch of his biography of modernist poet and artist David Jones.

Biographer to discuss life of modernist artist

English professor Tom Dilworth will discuss the life of David Jones — the subject of his new biography — in a free public lecture Wednesday, September 20.

The event, hosted by the English department and the Humanities Research Group, will serve as the Canadian book launch of David Jones: Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet. The 432-page volume is the definitive biography of a man Dr. Dilworth describes as “the least-known great modernist, an important British visual artist and great poet.” Dilworth spent 31 years research and writing this work.

“It deals with all aspects of his life, which is important because of his engravings, particularly his book illustrations, and also his watercolour landscapes and portraits of 1926-32, his still-life flowers in glass chalices of the 1950s, and his painted inscriptions of the 1950s and ’60s,” he says. “Even more important is his poetry, especially his epic-length poems: In Parenthesis (1937), generally acknowledged as the greatest literary work to emerge from World War I, and The Anathemata (1952), an anatomy of Western culture, which is Jones’s greatest achievement.”

Jones produced this remarkable volume of work while in emotional distress resulting from his experience in the trenches of World War I, says Dilworth.

“He suffered two crushing nervous breakdowns and decades of depression,” he says. “His making so much intelligent beauty in such circumstances is the single greatest existential achievement of international modernism.”

The book’s 162 illustrations, including lavish colour reproductions of Jones’s art make it a visual treasure, but they are not the sole draw.

“This life story also benefits from its subject being so appealing, an exceptionally loveable person,” Dilworth says.

The launch will begin at 4 p.m. in the Katzman Lounge, Vanier Hall.