Thomas Jones, Houses in Naples, oil on paper

Italy, AD 1782

From 1776 to 1783 the Welsh artist Thomas Jones (1742-1803) lived and worked in Italy. He spent the last three years in Naples, where he met many English artists and travellers, including the diplomat Sir William Hamilton and the watercolourists John Robert Cozens, William Pars and Francis Towne.

Jones painted landscapes with classical ruins as souvenirs for these educated tourists, but, unusually, he also painted ordinary subjects like this view of Neapolitan houses, made for his own pleasure and instruction. As this remarkable sketch reveals, Jones had an acute sense of solidity, structure and architecture. Signed and dated 1782, it shows the view from the roof of his lodgings in Naples. The different textures of stone, broken plaster and dark hollowed spaces of the buildings form a stark contrast to the simple blue mass of the sky and the green and grey of the trees in the foreground. The technique of oil on paper is nost often associated with French artists working in Italy. Jones had used the medium in England, however, probably at the suggestion of his teacher Richard Wilson, who while in Italy had worked in the studio of Claude-Joseph Vernet.

Jones's reputation languished in obscurity until a number of his landscape oil sketches were sold in 1954, exciting great interest because of their freshness and remarkably informal approach to composition.

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More information


C. Riopelle and X. Bray, A brush with nature: the Gere (London, National Gallery, 1999)

L. Stainton, British landscape watercolours (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

I. Jenkins and K. Sloan, Vases and Volcanoes: Sir Willi (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

L. Gowing, The originality of Thomas Jone, The seventeenth of the Walter Neurath memorial lectures (National Gallery, London, 1985)

A. Wilton and I. Bignamini (eds.), Grand Tour: the lure of Italy (London, Tate Gallery Publishing, 1996)

F.W. Hawcroft, Travels in Italy 1776-1783, ba (Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, 1988)


Height: 255.000 mm
Width: 382.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1954-10-9-12



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