NEW YORK — Calvert R. Jones: Photographs and Drawings is on view at Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs from January 20 through March 31, 2023.
Reverend Calvert Richard Jones (1802-1877), the Welsh marine artist, is recognized as one of the most talented and sophisticated of the early photographers. The recent emergence of previously unknown calotypes, daguerreotypes and drawings from his family archive reveals a diverse and colorful artistic career. Calvert Jones derived truth from nature and found in photography an accurate means of producing studies for artists. William Henry Fox Talbot’s most successful pupil, Jones explored the fusion of Talbot’s negative/positive calotype process with his skills as a draftsman and marine painter, particularly during his Mediterranean travels with Christopher Rice Mansel “Kit” Talbot, Fox Talbot’s younger cousin. As a competent draftsman schooled in the rules of perspective and form, Calvert Jones brought a vitality and an unusually high degree of artistic sensitivity to the new medium of photography.
Swansea, on the south coast of Wales, was a natural place for Jones to photograph. His family had its roots there and its active harbor had long provided subjects for his watercolors; it continued to do so when he began to use the camera. Jones's treatment of urban areas is fascinating. His streets are rarely populated (he sometimes added figures to photographs that he hand-colored). The framing is confident and strong perspectives dominate in the exquisite salt print on display, Street scene with Swansea Castle, Wales, circa 1846, made from a calotype negative. The town clock reveals that it’s two in the afternoon. The awnings of the shops are extended, perhaps to ward off the glare of the afternoon sun. Commanding attention in the middle of the composition is a gaslight, a relatively recent amenity that made urban living both attractive and safe.
Calvert Jones had trained under the watercolorist and drawing master James Duffield Harding, teacher and sketching companion of John Ruskin. Among the accomplished marine sketches and paintings in the exhibition is Jones’s 1830 watercolor Study of sailing vessels, which beautifully captures a sloop tacking into the wind.
Also on display is the hand-colored salt print by Jones, Soldiers in formation, Chiatamone, Naples, made from acalotype negative produced in 1846, expertly merging his photographic skills with his training as a watercolorist. In 1847 Jones had the honor of showing some of his hand-colored salt prints to Queen Victoria, who much admired them and kept one for the Royal Collection.
Calvert Jones learned to make photographs from his friend W. H. Fox Talbot and occasionally they collaborated. On display is View through an open hotel room window, rue de la Paix, Paris, a calotype negative, waxed, 1843-1844, by Fox Talbot or by Jones. No print has yet been located from this negative. The use of the window frame and curtains toadd a dimensional plane makes this negative a striking image on its own.
The exhibition includes a pensive portrait of a Gardener seated with sickle, a salt print from a glass negative, early1850s, one of a series of portraits of family and domestic staff made by Jones for pleasure, not profit, and which could well have served as a study for his own painting. These intimate portrait studies reveal a less known, more personal aspect of Jones’s oeuvre.