A Tribute to
Raymond Ray Jones R.E, A.R.C.A
1886 - 1942
Sited at the Central Library, Old Street, Ashton-under-Lyne this plaque commemorates the life of Raymond Ray Jones, a highly talented artist born in Ashton-under-Lyne.
Raymond was born in Uxbridge Street, Ashton-under-Lyne on August 31st 1886, the eldest child of Martha and Samuel Shepley Jones. Samuel Jones was a cabinet maker by trade, and he actively supported the running of St. Anne's Church, Ashton-under-Lyne where he was the organist for over 50 years. Martha assisted in the St Anne's School, probably in a teaching capacity and, as a child, Raymond attended this school.
The whole family had an interest in music. Samuel also gave piano lessons and several of their children became proficient piano players.
Raymond's early interest in art was actively discouraged by his parents, so much so that, while still of school age, and in despair, he decided to run away from home to follow his calling. After the passage of a few days, he returned dishevelled, tired out and with no soles on his shoes. It was discovered that he had walked to Birmingham to visit an art exhibition, and had only returned home because, according to his sister Dorothy, he had "heard a voice" urging him to do so.
Following this incident, Raymond's parents relented and, though his first position following his school years was in the drawing office of the National Gas and Oil Engine Company, Ashton, he was permitted to follow his artistic interest. This was done in parallel with his training at Technical School night classes, which he started at the age of 14.
At this time (about 1890) the 'National' was expanding and developing the new technology required for the production of Diesel engines, as an extension to their gas engine range, and the Company was at the forefront of this technology. Highest professional standards were adopted and the discipline and technical skills gained in this environment were to be of great assistance to Raymond in his later years.
As his artistic ability started to predominate, Raymond became a student at The Heginbottom School of Art, Ashton-under-Lyne (now perhaps better known as the Central Library and Art Gallery at the corner of Old Street and Oldham Road) where considerable advances were made under the direction of Mr J.H. Cronshaw. Numerous certificates catalogue Raymond's progress through the Art School during the period 1902 to 1907, and by 1905-6 his abilities were rewarded by the award of a Board of Education Free Studentship, a County Council Art Exhibition of £15 per annum for two years (noted as being "First on the List") and a Board of Education Local Scholarship of £20 per annum for 3 years.
Raymond wished to develop his career by gaining entry to the Royal College of Art in London. He was advised that he was attempting an almost impossible task. However, with considerable help and direction from Mr Cronshaw, and total dedication to work, Raymond achieved the required standard. An acknowledgement of his success was given in the Certificate of Merit awarded by Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation Education Committee (Heginbottom School of Art) for the Session 1906-7. It details the award given to Raymond as follows:
"Board of Education Royal Exhibition of £50 per annum & Free Tuition at the Royal College of Art, London, for two years."
Other awards gained included a Lancashire County Council Art Scholarship of the value of £60 per annum for 3 years, a Draper's Scholarship for £5 for 1907-8, and King's Prize of £2 for freehand drawing.
Raymond entered the Royal College of Art at the age of 21, in 1907.
Royal College of Art
At the Royal College of Art, Raymond's formal training continued under the direction of Sir Frank Short and Professor Gerald Moira. These two gentlemen were to have a strong influence in the formation of Raymond's abilities.
Professor Moira was born in London, a son of Portuguese parents, and is perhaps best known for his mural decorations in major buildings such as Lloyd's Register, the Central Criminal Court, and the UK Providence Institute. Professor Moira was also a skilled artist in both oils and watercolours, and had an interest in buildings, recognised by the Royal Institute of British Architects, who made him an Honorary Associate. Many of Raymond's skills, which are so evident in his oil and watercolour pictures, were learnt under the guidance of Professor Moira, and it is probable that his interest in architectural subjects can also be traced to the same source.
Sir Frank Short was one of the most influential people in the artistic establishment at that time, and it is evident that Raymond and Sir Frank developed a close friendship which lasted long after Raymond's student days were over. It is interesting to note that like Raymond, Sir Frank Short had a background in engineering and was until 1904 an Associate Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers.
A master of etching and engraving in his own right, Sir Frank is known to have assisted James McNeill Whistler in matters relating to technique and printing during the period 1888-1900. The influence of Whistler can be seen in some of Raymond's work, notably in the portraits and some of the industrial river scenes.
Sir Frank is quoted as saying in a lecture: "An artist must be a workman; and an artist afterwards, if it pleases God." The technical skills required in the process of etching were imparted to Raymond, and it is very evident that he was not only a workman and an artist, but also a superb craftsman with a meticulous eye for detail. In 1910 he became an Associate of the Royal College of Art.
Academie Julian, Paris
After the completion of his training at the Royal College of Art, Raymond proceeded to Paris and entered the Studio of M. Jean Paul Laurens at the Academie Julian in May 1911.
The Academie Julian was not an academy in the accepted sense, but an art school which furnished models and provided (not too close) supervision of its students' work. It was established in 1873 as a commercial venture by the astute M. Rodolphe Julian as an open academy for foreign students, who would almost certainly be excluded from the free courses provided at the official Ecole des Beaux-Arts because of the extremely difficult entrance examination in the French language. This examination was part of a deliberate ploy engaged by the Ministry of Fine Arts to relieve the French taxpayer from the cost of providing free courses for foreign students without compromising the principle that, in theory, all state art education in France was free.
Using visiting professors from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, M. Julian's enterprise was very successful, not only for himself, but also for the students. Later it was the reputation of the Academie Julian that drew foreign students to Paris, and they no longer bothered to present themselves at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
The regime which existed in the Academie can best be described as undisciplined, and part of the fame of the Academie was derived from the unruly behaviour of its pupils, with their wild parades through Paris and practical jokes. The pupils were left very much on their own with minimal interference from any teacher. The era was that of the belle époque, a time of frivolity and festivity, which lasted until the Great War.
Raymond worked within this regime, nominally under the auspices of the now ageing Jean-Paul Laurens (in 1911 he was 73 years old), an Academic Realist, who achieved high honours for conscientiously researched and naturalistic history paintings.
It is easy to understand how Raymond gained a great affection for France; however not all his time in Paris was comfortable or pleasant. There are reports of living in attic rooms without food and, in keeping with the tradition of the Academie Julian, he was at the receiving end of practical jokes. Painstakingly prepared etchings were used by fellow students for wrapping butter purchased from the local market.
By the time Raymond left Paris he had gained a detailed knowledge of the city, and of its many fine buildings. His draughtsmanship skills had reached maturity, and he was awarded Prix and Medal for portrait painting.
In the period before the outbreak of the Great War, Raymond travelled extensively and family legend has it that his drawings were so accurate and detailed that he was arrested in Venice as a spy, and spent some time in jail while the authorities checked his artistic credentials.
Change of Name
Raymond Jones worked under his name up to 1913, and following this period all his works are listed under Raymond Ray-Jones. The name change has caused a degree of confusion, and it is not clear in many catalogues and lists that the two names relate to the same artist. This point is illustrated in the Royal Academy of Art's exhibitor lists where he is catalogued, separately, as 'JONES, Raymond' and 'JONES, R Ray', both on the same page.
The reason for the name change has not been determined. According to Raymond's sister, it was in acknowledgment of an unknown benefactor who helped Raymond through the art colleges. His widow believes that it was the influence of Sir Frank Short, and the change was undertaken for strictly commercial reasons.
In 1914 Raymond was created an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers.
During the war he served with the Royal Horse Artillery in a clerical position, as his health was apparently not good enough for him to serve in France. He remained in the army for two years after the war ended.
He continued to exhibit during this period, with one etching per year at the Royal Academy and several more at the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers.
Raymond's works were exhibited extensively in the UK and overseas, in places as far apart as Dresden, Toronto, Sydney and Dunedin. In 1920 he was one of the Foundation Members of the Society of Graphic Art.
In 1922 an exhibition entitled 'The Seventh Exhibition of Modern Masters of Etching' was held at the Leicester Galleries in London, and Raymond's self-portrait was described as one of the successes of the show, with all copies sold on the first day. Contemporary accounts note the picture as 'one of the finest etched portraits of contemporary times'. The etching was first prepared for the British Institute Etching Scholarship, probably as early as 1910, and has become Raymond's best known work. In about 1931 he received an order for a proof of this portrait from His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Sweden. Copies of the print are held by the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum (first state), and the City Art Gallery, Manchester (second state). One of the two copies at the Victoria and Albert Museum was apparently printed by Sir Frank Short.
Raymond was commissioned to produce the Print Collectors Club 1925 Presentation Plate, entitled 'Lamplight'. The trial proof of this print is one of two of his prints held by the famous Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
His abilities were acknowledged, and he was created a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painters-Etchers and Engravers (R.E.) in 1926.
In 1922 Sir Frank Short recommended that Raymond be selected to paint the portraits of a young barrister. This barrister, Edward Holroyd-Pearce, who in later life became Lord Pearce, is perhaps now best known for the Pearce Commission into Ian Smith's UDI proposals for Rhodesia.
The recommendation resulted in the introduction of Raymond to Effie, Edward's sister, a remarkable woman in her own right. Effie was one of the first women students to undertake training to become a doctor at St Mary's Hospital. She completed 3 years of the 5 year course, and then transferred to the Middlesex Hospital to qualify as a physiotherapist. Not an inconsiderable factor in her decision to change courses was the harassment she had suffered at the hands of the male establishment.
Effie and Raymond were married at Brighton Registry Office in 1926.
A number of etchings, paintings and drawings depict Effie as the model, including 'Lamplight'. Often in Raymond's later works one of the female figures within the scene is Effie.
Raymond continued to work as an artist and his agents were Colnaghi of Bond Street. Effie worked as a physiotherapist. Their eldest son Alan was born in 1930, followed three years later by their second son, Philip.
Raymond's eye for detail remained very keen, and Effie remembers hours spent on river banks during visits to France watching Raymond counting the number of bricks or stones in each course of the bridge abutments. Alan also remembers having to sit very still and quiet for long periods when he became a model for his father. Raymond would express a degree of exasperation when drawing clouds, as they failed to remain still long enough for him to depict them accurately in every detail.
The youngest child, Holroyd Anthony, was born in 1941 and it was apparently Tony who would inherit his father's genius, though in a different field. Before his untimely death from leukaemia at the early age of 30, Tony Ray-Jones had established himself as a photographer of considerable note. Tony was born on 26th February 1941 and within a year, under very tragic circumstances, Raymond died suddenly.
The last known showing of one of Raymond's works occurred in Birmingham in 1943. In an exhibition entitled 'Paris in Pictures' reference was made to an etching 'Rue des Quatre Vents'. This etching had previously been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1922.
For many reasons, Raymond's works have remained in obscurity. Those held in public collections are not on display, and have not been so for almost 50 years. That an artist of such talent and ability should slip into almost total oblivion is almost unbelievable.
Text by P.R.B. Sanderson, taken from the printed souvenir of an exhibition of works by Raymond Ray-Jones held at the Astley Cheetham Art Gallery, Stalybridge, 2 May - 3 June 1992.